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Cop questions

I know I posted before, but I thought I would renew the topic. People always have questions for cops (I happen to be one here in Bozeman), so let's see if we can get some constructive dialogue going....


POSTED: 2004-11-04

Do you ever give breaks to good people that are caught at the wrong place at the wrong time who may otherwise be a normal law abiding citizens? Examples may be speeding under 10 or 15 mph, certain parties, driving under the influence, possession of very small amounts of marijuana, etc etc.

POSTED: 2004-11-16 12:00:46

Sure, we give breaks all the time. It just depends on the totality of the circumstances. If we think that a warning is sufficient for the offense, then a warning will probably be given. It also depends on the offense. Possessing illegal drugs is a little different than going 10 miles over the speed limit (I'm sure you would agree with this).

Just to dispell any misconceptions, we DO NOT HAVE QUOTAS. One of the most important tools that we have is our discretion in enforcement.

Thanks...good question.

POSTED: 2004-11-16 20:47:41

Here's one. Why don't police officers enforce people running red lights in Bozeman. It is the worst town I've ever seen for it and somebody is going to get hurt. Also bicycles expect to share the road yet they don't follow half of the rules as they would if they were in a car.
Do police look for bike riders breaking the law?
Also what do you as a police officer in Bozeman on your days off? Do you get two consecutive days off every week? How many hours are typical shifts? Do you hang out with any other police officers or do you have mostly civilian friends?

POSTED: 2004-11-17 17:03:52

"DUI High" said in one meeting that you do have quota's. My retired Police Officer Father said, no, there aren't any quota's. Now they can write as many tickets as they want! LOL :)
Great idea for this forum. Too many misconceptions out there.

POSTED: 2005-02-03 17:32:21

Answer to the red light question...

We make a big effort to enforce the red light laws in Bozeman. However, as you can imagine, people tend to drive a little more carefully when there is a "black and white" around, so it's difficult. I've found that there is a misconception about what the red light rule is so here it is: as long as you have entered the intersection when the light turns red, you are legal.

Bicyclists are a frustrating problem and in my experience MOST do not obey traffic laws. The best way that we have to enforce proper bicycle riding is with bicycle officers and again, we try as best we can.

Scheduling...we work 4 10 hour shifts per week with a 3 day weekend.

Thanks for the questions.

POSTED: 2005-02-07 21:39:15

I would like to see an effort made to discourage people from turning right when there is NOT a right turn lane. For example going north on 19th at oak street. I have nearly had my side mirror taken off several times.

Maybe just put up some temp cones and sign and move it around town like the mobile speed radar you have now.

POSTED: 2005-02-07 21:54:18

I agree that the right turns are a problem. It's something that we have concentrated on as much as possible (especially at 19th/Babcock before the new intersection were put in).

North 19th is difficult because of the volume of traffic and the lack of places for officers to sit and observe the intersection.

The idea of cones might work...

I'll run it by some people and see what happens. Thanks.


POSTED: 2005-02-09 18:58:55


I ran into a couple of people that seem to have the wrong information about renewing their driver's licenses or obtaining a Montana driver's license when they come here from out of state.

Regardless of what DMV tells you, you do not have a grace period when renewing your driver's license...the expiration date is your last day of driving legally. If you hear that you have 90 or 120 days to renew, that ONLY applies to taking the written test and driving test over again (if you let your license lapse more than 90, they will make you test again).

When you come to Montana from out of State, you have 120 days to obtain a Montana driver's license... ($250 ticket if you don't).

Hope this helps,


POSTED: 2005-02-21 06:35:25

1. Is there really such a thing as a "citizens arrest?"
2. What to do when a person parks in handicap parking, and do not have the plate or window sticker and obvisouly should NOT park there?
3. What if someone breaks the law, but there is not a cop, nor would it do any good to call if the suspect is gone..IE: someone throws a cigarette butt out the window. Or speeds down a street?

Thanks for your time, and also THANK YOU to all law-enforcement people, police, fire etc.! Thanks for all your hard work and dedication!

POSTED: 2005-03-31 22:15:52

Yes, there is such thing as a citizen's arrest...however I don't usually recommend doing it. Anyone in Montana can make an "arrest" as long as they immediately turn the person over to law enforcement. The problem that you will run into is that if you try to arrest someone and you are not a police officer, the person you are arresting will:

1. Not recognize your authority to arrest them
2. Probably resist and someone will get hurt.

In short, if you see someone breaking the law, keep an eye on them and call the police. If it is a serious crime it will be a priority. If it is a handicap parker or a traffic violation, we may not respond right away, but we will investigate it later.

If you see someone parking in a handicap us, we'll deal with it.

Thank you for your support.


POSTED: 2005-04-01 06:34:15

Can you comment on the workload of Bozeman Cops? Three years ago, I lived with my roomates in the historic distric and we were robbed three times in one year and very little was done to investigate. We were told this was because less than 1000dollars was stolen although it added up to more than this total. I think the police dept. also assumed that the incidents were people travelling through and weren't worth investigating because they were too busy. We did go to the station and gave info on what was stolen. Is it naive of me to think that the police should have taken fingerprints? In one case, my bag was discovered several blocks away with some things still in it that were obviously handled by the theif, but these things were just given back to me with no comment... Needless to say, we were dissapointed. Now I wonder if the same people/person who was responsible for recent business robberies was starting out by stealing from cars and garages in our neighborhood... I do know Bozeman has understaffing problems. Can you tell us if there is an established priority for investigating crimes and what it is?

POSTED: 2005-04-03 23:48:31

Where is the law that says drivers can go about any speed they want over the posted limit? I have tried to find it but just seems to be what ever they want to drive, this includes city streets as well as county/state roads. There is no deterrent as very seldom tickets are written. I would love to see a ZERO tolerance on this situation. It would be surprising how much the accident rate would drop and deaths!
Wouldn't that be a joke to get through legislature?
Try setting a Police veh. on No. 19th at 4:30 to 6 and see what happens when drivers try to merge and cut everbody off from the ones that are trying to drive safely? I know the story-not enough officers on duty!Can't be everywhere at once!

POSTED: 2005-04-09 10:11:02

Your are right when you say "not enough cops". There are many days when we have very few officers working the streets of Bozeman and the reality is...traffic enforcement suffers because of it. This is not an excuse, it's a reality. Trust me...all of us would rather be working traffic enforcement if we had time. It will get better.


POSTED: 2005-04-09 13:30:03

In school zones, is the speed limit 15mph between 8:30am and 4:30pm on the weekends as well?

POSTED: 2005-04-17 14:51:00

Technically, the school zones are still 15 mph during the weekends and over the course of the summer break as well. This is due to the large number of activities that occur at the schools during these times. I will tell you that there is less emphasis on these zones during these times...

Do the right thing, drive safely.


POSTED: 2005-04-17 20:10:27

Something I have really noticed lately...those of you who frequent the downtown area on foot...please please please use the crosswalks and follow the signals. It's not only expensive when you get caught, it will keep you alive.

"There was no one coming" doesn't work because that is what EVERYONE that I have put into the back of an ambulance has said AFTER they were hit by the car.


POSTED: 2005-04-17 20:14:01

I agree that where north 19th merges into one lane heading to the freeway is very dangerous at times and someone is always racing by and wants in. However, the speed limit on that road is posted as 55 miles an hour and the average speed is usually only around 35-40. I'm not encouraging speeding on this road at all but slow drivers cause accidents as well.

POSTED: 2005-05-19 11:14:20

I've had some questions lately about all of those new "scooters" that are running around the streets and whether or not they need to be is sometimes confusing for cops as well because there are so many definitions of these new toys.

Anyway, this should sum things up...

1. If your new scooter has pedals and produces less than 2 brake horsepower, then it is considered a bicycle by Montana Law (even though it has a motor, whether electric or gas powered).

2. If your new scooter does not have pedals and is motivated by some sort of engine or electric motor, then it is considered a motor vehicle by Montana Law and you have to have it registered and possess an endorsement to ride it on the streets.

Hope this clears things up.


POSTED: 2005-05-22 20:33:46

I am thinking of moving to bozeman to become a police officer, i already have the application and will be filling it out tonight. theres one issue i currently live in florida, i was wondering if i actualy had a shot considering im from out of state. any advice from an actual cop would be nice. Im a certified police officer here in Fl.

POSTED: 2005-06-15 15:08:23

Everyone has a chance to get hired here. There is no preference (either official or unofficial) for in-state applicants. We really like experience, so don't hesitate.


POSTED: 2005-06-15 20:28:21

can you tell me about the tests that i will have to take such as the PAT and the written stuff, floridas test are pretty easy but they usualy 200 to 300 people for each test. will this be the same?? thank you for your info its helping me grasp the Bozeman way

POSTED: 2005-06-16 11:59:56

" as long as you have entered the intersection when the light turns red, you are legal."

Thank you for posting this information.
I began driving in Oregon and , at least at that time, if you were in the intersection at any time while the light was red, you were in violation. I was going to post an example that I experienced; but it was long-winded :-)

With intersections like Oak & 19th, sometimes the yellow doesn't seem to be long enough to stop, from 45mph. Now, I won't be lockig up my brakes, attempting to stop, in time. I will still try to stop, in a timely manner, if possible.

POSTED: 2005-07-02 11:22:47

To the testing guy:

Our testing process has three parts...

1. The written exam which is about 3-4 hours worth of common sensical, reading comprehension, spelling, logic, etc.

2. The PT test which is situp, pushups, sit and reach, and the 1.5 mile run

3. If you finish high enough, you will move onto the oral interview which is normally scheduled for an hour.

If you are selected after this process, there is a comprehensive background investigation, physical exam, and psychological exam.

Best of luck if you go through.


POSTED: 2005-07-04 21:35:44

How about this....Do you ticket bicyclists who ride on the wrong side of the road. I have been noticing a lot of bicyclists riding on the wrong side of the road on some heavily congested streets. Do you do anything about this?

I especially notice kids. Haven't their parents taught them the basics behind bicycling?

POSTED: 2005-07-15 16:41:03

I have a question about car insurance. My daughter is moving back, is driving now and 16 years old. How long can I wait to get insurance on my vehicle? What if she gets into an accident before I get the insurance? What if she borrows a friend's vehicle and gets into an accident? What if she has her own car with insurance for it, still borrows my car once in a while and gets into an accident?

POSTED: 2005-07-29 08:08:14

Bicycles on the wrong side of the road:

I have never issued a citation for this, but I have given a lot of warnings. But you are correct, this is a problem. Since you brought this up, here is a reminder of the rules:

1. You must ride your bicycle on the right side of the road and follow ALL traffic regulations (stop signs, red lights, turn lanes, etc).

2. Children under the age of 16 are allowed (and I prefer this) to ride on the sidewalks in Bozeman. There is one exception, however, no one is allowed to ride on the sidewalks in the downtown business district (between Grand and Rouse).

3. You are also not allowed to ride your skateboard or rollerblades in the street (this is a pet peave of mine), please stay on the sidewalks. If you are in the business district, these are not allowed at all.

To answer your question about the parenting...I'd better not :)

If you have any other questions that you don't want to post, email me at

Keep the questions coming!


POSTED: 2005-07-29 08:54:47

Reply to the Insurance Question:

There is no "grace period" for driving without valid insurance. The vehicle that is being driven MUST have VALID liability insurance whenever the vehicle is driven on the road. If you get caught, the ticket is running about $400 right now and your insurance (when you do get it) will be much higher.

If you borrow a friend's car, their insurance is responsible for any damage that you incur (keep this in mind before you let someone borrow your car :). Just so you know, "This isn't my car" is not an acceptable answer when you are asked for your insurance information. You will get cited.



POSTED: 2005-07-29 08:59:22

Just want to thank everyone for their questions and comments...they have all been great! Keep them coming.

The Sweet Pea Festival is coming up, started off by the Bite of Bozeman next week. Everyone have a great time and enjoy YOUR city.


POSTED: 2005-07-29 09:03:41

What are the open container laws during events like Sweet Pea and Bite of Bozeman? Does it start/end at a certain time? Are glass bottles ok? Any other info would help. I think its great to be able to have a drink outside and I hope people dont abuse it so it goes away.

POSTED: 2005-07-29 11:19:40

I think you misunderstood my insurance question. I do have insurance on my car, full coverage. However, if my 16 year old daughter drives it and gets into an accident and I don't have insurance on her, what happens? Also, if she borrows a friend of mine's car, he has insurance, and she gets into an accident, is she covered being 16?

POSTED: 2005-07-29 13:26:39

Insurance questions...

Sorry, I did misunderstand your question. As long as the vehicle she is driving is insured and she has permission to be driving it, she will be covered by the owners insurance. Sorry about the misunderstanding.


POSTED: 2005-07-29 20:29:03

Open containers...

The open container ordinance will be waived during the Bite of Bozeman. It will be waived until the street opens back up around 9-10 pm. I don't believe that there are any further restrictions as far as glass, plastic etc.

The open container ordinance is still in effect in Lindley Park during the will be enforced whenever possible. If you get caught, it is a $100 fine. HAVE A GREAT TIME.


POSTED: 2005-07-29 20:37:30

There are some intersections in town (especially in the residential neighborhoods) that have terrible or no visibility to on-coming traffic. Is there any way to get those improved? Who would we talk to/ work with about trying to make those safer?

POSTED: 2005-08-16 17:16:03

27th Ave & Oak is a great example of this. The south-west property owner at this intersection has a tall fence built to the property line. I have seen several close calls there. It doesn't help when people are traveling way over the speed limit on that section of Oak street.

POSTED: 2005-08-17 00:44:47

Regarding the insurance question, I suggest you and your friend talk to the insurance agents.

POSTED: 2005-08-17 09:14:57

The low/no visibility problem with many of our intersections is a problem, I agree. The best way to deal with this if you want to bring it to someone's attention is to contact the Zoning Department at City Hall (Rouse/Main). I don't know enough about the zoning laws to give a proper answer.


POSTED: 2005-11-03 07:11:06

I see a lot of people driving around with the hanicap 'flag' on the mirrors.
Isn't that illegal?
Thanks for all the info you have given! :)

POSTED: 2006-05-09 00:26:15

What are the rules with elderly drivers? Is there an age when they are required to take more driving tests to keep their license? Can an officer or someone else recommend that an elderly driver should not be able to continue driving, or is it up to the individual driver to give up his/her license?
Thank you.

POSTED: 2006-05-09 11:12:22

Reply to Handicap Placard on mirror:

There is a law that it is illegal to have anything hanging in your vehicle that may obstruct your view while you are driving. A handicap tag doesn't seem to block your view much in my experience so I don't really worry about that. I know they do print "Remove from mirror before driving" warnings on the hangtags, but this is more for the safety of the driver.


POSTED: 2006-05-09 15:16:04

Reply to Elderly Drivers:

This is an excellent topic and I have run into this quite a bit lately. As we all know, when we get older our senses and our reactions become diminished. The world that we live in, especially our driving world where everyone needs to get where they are going as fast as possible, is getting way to fast-paced for many older drivers. Vision, hearing, and reaction time are crucial when you are driving a car. These are the things that get worse with age and it becomes DANGEROUS to everyone involved.

As police officers, we have forms that we can submit to the State of Montana if we come across someone who appears to be lacking in either driving ability, lacking in the knowledge of traffic laws, or a medical condition (diabetes, seizures, etc) that inhibits their ability to drive safely. These aren't used very often, but the tool does exist. I have been approached by family members who have an elderly parent or grandparent that they feel should not be driving for various reasons and I usually defer to them or their family doctor. I don't have the ability to submit a retest form at the request of a family member, but the family doctor can submit a medical reason.

This is a tough spot for a family because driving is one of the last avenues of independence when we get older. Not many elderly drivers are willing to give it up without a fight.

Best of luck,


POSTED: 2006-05-09 15:28:26

What about riding a bike after drinking? I am all for being safe, but let's be honest...the bozeman taxi system is horrible. i have waited (more than once)over an hour downtown for a ride. I want to be able to ride my bike but am afraid of the consequences. Can you really get a DUI while riding a bike?

POSTED: 2006-06-16 20:17:31

Hey,"Cop"? You have a great thing going here! Hope you didn't give up on the Q & A!


POSTED: 2006-12-05 07:19:08

Response to the bicycle question (VERY VERY LATE...SORRY).

Contrary to popular belief, Montana does not have a DUI law that applies to bicycles. You can ride you bicycle after you have been drinking.

Here is the problem however. Since riding a bicycle requires balance and good judgement, especially when traversing the streets of Bozeman, I don't recommend it. After a night on the town, there are many intoxicated bicyclists and many intoxicated drivers on the street at the same time. A bicycle will always lose.

If you are going to ride, please use a headlight, a taillight and your brain. And follow the traffic signs/signals...yes, even if there is "no one coming".

On a side note, you're right, I would like to see a better taxi service during the 0-Drunk 30 hours on weekends. They are hard to come by, especially Fri and Sat nights. I would contact the new bus system to see if they would be interested in setting up a night route for these high traffic times.


POSTED: 2006-12-06 08:14:06

I forgot to add our new website address:

Go to this site to see local information about your police department such as crime statistics, photos, requests for assistance from the public, city ordinances, etc.


POSTED: 2006-12-06 08:19:40

Here is another question for you:
Are there any traffic laws related to people pulling into the "center lane" when both traffic lanes are full?

This happens a lot on West Main. The main issue is when they just keep driving down the center lane trying to get a spot in the driving lane.

POSTED: 2006-12-06 08:53:53

Reply to the center lane question...

Yes, it is illegal to turn into the center lane and use it to merge into traffic. This lane is only to be used for turning OFF of a street.


POSTED: 2007-03-06 06:30:16

Thought I would throw out an announcement that the Bozeman Police Department is now starting another hiring process...

Go to for more information.

Keep the questions coming.


POSTED: 2007-05-07 07:02:17


The Bozeman Police Department is looking for any information that may help our investigation concerning the vandalism to a patrol vehicle that was parked downtown early Sunday morning around 2am. Officers were investigating a fight behind the RBar when someone found it necessary to shatter the rear window of a the vehicle with a shovel and a wooden pallet. Any information that you may have will help. Please contact CRIMESTOPPERS at 586-3311 and you may qualify for a cash reward.

Thank you.

POSTED: 2007-05-07 07:17:41

Why did you guys decide to ban open containers from this years Bite of Bozeman? People are still going to get drunk, now they will just stay in the bars longer and the overall atmosphere will suffer, not to mention some potential lost sales to the food vendors.

And is there anyway to avoid a ticket from parking my car downtown Friday night, and retrieving it Saturday night? I feel like I am being punished for not driving drunk. I've started hoofing it to and from the bars now, but it's a good mile and a half for me.

POSTED: 2007-08-01 16:48:09

Oh, and one more question that has bothered me for years. What is the policy on clearing radar guns after pulling someone over? I myself was pulled over in East Helena, and received a ticket for going 61 in a 45. However, East Helena's officers have a reputation for being... strict... so I was going 47 at the time. He was going the opposite direction, pulled a 180 and pulled me over. When asked if I could view the radar gun, he told me he had cleared it. I got a $75 ticket out of the whole deal. Basically, what is stopping police from doing things like this? If they are not required by law to show any proof that I was speeding, how could I ever contest?

POSTED: 2007-08-01 16:52:31

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