MTPR

Cascade County Sheriff Asked To Give Up Peace Officer Certification

Feb 6, 2018

Cascade County Sheriff Bob Edwards will be asked to surrender his peace officer and coroner certifications, a law enforcement oversight group determined Tuesday. Edwards was charged with misdemeanor assault last June after an argument with his girlfriend; he returned to work in August.

Perry Johnson is the executive director of the Montana Public Safety Officer Standards and Training Council (POST). POST is responsible for certifying public safety officers in the state and addressing allegations of misconduct. Johnson said that the council conducted its own investigation, relying on witnesses, body camera recordings, and interviews.

"The appropriate sanction in this case would be the voluntary surrender of his certificates based on all of that collective process," he said.

Johnson said that council investigations are sparked by criminal charges or ethical allegations against officers. Officers have the opportunity to respond to their findings or advocate for different sanctions.

"It provides a tremendous amount of due process for any officers that have had an allegation of misconduct against them."

If officers advised by POST to surrender their certifications refuse or don't respond, Johnson says the next step on the "flow chart" is to revoke the certifications, which are required for all public safety officers — but "this requirement does not apply to any elected official," Johnson said.

That means that Edwards could legally remain Cascade County Sheriff, even without his certifications.

Johnson explains that the legal exception is meant to prevent the POST Council from interfering in voters' decisions. Edwards’s term is up this year; he has not said whether he’ll seek re-election.

The charges against Edwards were set to be dismissed by the city of Helena after he fulfilled conditions for the past six months, including counseling with a focus on domestic disturbance interactions.