Council extends police jurisdiction

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Whitefish Police officers are now authorized to make arrests within 5 miles of city limits.

City Council Oct. 2 approved an ordinance that officially gives officers the authority.

Officers generally can’t make arrests outside their jurisdiction, but the city has relied upon state law and case law that provides an exemption to the rule to authorize officers to make arrests within 5 miles, City Attorney Angela Jacobs noted.

“Despite the city’s ability to rely upon these exemptions, it is desirable to expressly authorize the city’s police officers to make arrests within 5 miles of city limits to minimize the possibility of wasting time and resources opposing jurisdictional challenges,” Jacobs said.

City Prosecutor Kristi Curtis brought the subject forward, Jacobs noted, suggesting that passing the ordinance should do away with any jurisdictional challenges for arrest made in the doughnut area outside city limits.

“We haven’t had a lot of challenges,” Jacobs said. “But jurisdictional challenges can take up some of our time.”

For example, Jacobs noted, Whitefish officers now don’t typically make DUI arrests on Big Mountain Road, but now could.

“We’d like to rely on that express authority to make arrests,” she said.

The city already has a law on its books that allows officers to make arrests within 3 miles of city limits for disorderly conduct, which includes offenses such as fighting or disturbing the peace.

“It’s a really weird statute,” she said. “It was enacted during Prohibition.”

Jacobs said there would be no conflict between the two laws.

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