UPDATE: Are the Billings Police Above the Law?

Quick update, Don posted this piece last week: Are the Billings Police Above the Law?

I’m inclined to agree with St. John that the officers should not lose their jobs and even that their suspensions represent fair punishments, but it’s indefensible to name the woman involved, especially considering that, at the time of the incidents, her job was a clerical position that did not involve a matter of public trust.

For a host of reasons, it’s critically important that we remind law enforcement in this country that, rather than seeing themselves as above the law, they must be held to a higher standard of conduct and release of information.

Great reporting via Last Best News on the continuing efforts for fairness in Billings.

City temporarily barred from naming cops in sex case:

A District Court judge granted a temporary restraining order Monday barring the city of Billings from releasing the names of three police officers disciplined for having sex with a civilian employee on city property.

The city was set to release the names, along with other documents related to the case, at 3 p.m. Monday. Late Monday morning, however, Yellowstone County District Judge Michael Moses issued the restraining order at the request of lawyers representing the three patrolmen.

Moses, who set a hearing for May 3 on whether the injunction should be permanent, said the order itself is confidential, since it includes the names of the three officers who admitted having sex — two of them while on duty — with a Police Department clerk.

The article from Last Best News continues:

Gazette editor Darrell Ehrlick said he spoke briefly with KTVQ news director Jon Stepanek about the possibility of jointly intervening in the case to argue for the release of what should be public information.

As for the request for a permanent injunction barring release of the officers’ names, Erhlick said, “we definitely are going to try to challenge that in whatever way we can.”

The suspensions without pay for the three officers came to light last week, but only after Last Best News asked Police Chief Rich St. John to confirm rumors to that effect. St. John said two of the officers were suspended for two weeks without pay because they had sex with the female clerk while on duty and on city property — in the basement of City Hall, which is used for records storage.

Thanks to Ed Kemmick, Last Best News, Darrell Ehrlick, The Billings Gazette, and Jon Stepanek and KTVQ for doggedly pursuing this. We will continue to watch this story as it develops.

If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we would certainly appreciate it.

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