City Councilor Bob Jaffe Thinks Cops and Fire Personnel Living Outside of the City is OK

by jhwygirl

It’s so bassackwards that I just have to ask: How could cops and fire personnel that live outside of the community be a good thing? And OK thing?

I ask that in the context of the what seems to be the current pressing issue for the City of Missoula right now. And while I say that a little snarky, I actually do think it important that city employees live in the city. Especially department heads and…dare I say it…police and fire.

The Missoulian’s Keila Szpaller went to work immediately after Wednesday’s committee meeting, it seems, as this morning’s paper brought us the news that the majority of the city’s top cops live outside of the city.

Below I’m going to print Bob Jaffe’s listserv committee report, a sort of informal – but still public – discussion on city issues.

I’ll also point out that while Jaffe retells City of Missoula Police Chief Muir comments in committee on Wednesday by saying “Police chief Muir spoke against the proposal telling us he moved to the county for the higher quality of life and likely would not have taken the job as police chief if this rule were in place,” he takes no effort to dispel Muir’s contention.

Jaffe continues, seemingly acknowledging the superior quality of life in the county – which is a little peculiar coming from a city councilor, no? I mean, is it not an odd public introspection of his and his fellow councilor’s work? Bob’s been on council for more than 6 years now, I’m pretty sure.

Anyways……Jaffe’s full report below the fold, to make sure you have the full context.


Today we mixed up the schedule a bit and started with Administration and Finance. Our first item was to set a public hearing to consider a new policy that will require certain department heads to live within the city. The thinking is that if folks are going to be in top decision making roles over how government in the city will function, they should live among us. Another argument is that if they are drawing their pay from city taxes they should also be contributing to that tax base. The former argument resonates with me more than the latter. Police chief Muir spoke against the proposal telling us he moved to the county for the higher quality of life and likely would not have taken the job as police chief if this rule were in place. This statement pretty much sums up the problem. The department heads have a much greater role than council members in guiding day to day functioning and the direction of policy of city government. I think it would be good to have people in those roles who are on board with the idea that living in the city is desirable.

Can people who don’t want to live in the city still make good police chiefs? Certainly. We have had plenty of good department heads who live outside the city but the issue of personal perspective definitely comes up from time to time. I think the connection is easier to draw for positions like planning director, public works, engineering, and the CAO. Maybe not so much for police and fire. It is likely we will make some kind of exception for people who are current city employees who get promoted. This should be an interesting discussion at the public hearing in a few weeks.

Our next item was approving the issuance of bonds for URD2….Jaffe continues on, and you can read the rest here.

So you tell me: Out of town cops and fire a good thing? I seem to remember video of out of town cops coming in and beating up the locals while the Hell’s Angels were in town.

And it is really a good idea from emergency disaster planning issue?

Oh, sticks – what do I know? I’m just an anonymous blogger, so this opinion above doesn’t mean a shit.

  1. Buzz Feedback

    I guess the City Council wants to show us how many times they can re-shuffle the deck chairs on Titanic. Don’t they have something better to do?

    • You don’t think that certain city employees should live in the city? Or that, perhaps, ideally, they should?

      • Buzz Feedback

        Have there been problems because certain employees don’t live in the City? Have they not been doing their jobs? Has the public been underserved or have we not been getting value for money out of City employees that live in the county?

        If not, Councilor Wolken has too much free time on her hands and should move on to other things.

        Do the job right, collect your paycheck. I don’t care if you live on Planet Lovetron.

  2. lizard19

    geographical discrimination?

    I think the sentiment Muir expressed—that county living is better than city living—is also reflected in the ADU battle, which I still see as basically infill vs. sprawl.

    some people just don’t want other people living too close to them.

    • Discrimination? Choosing to live in Mineral or Ravalli County is not some sort of protected class or no-choice decision.

      I tend to think that a cop who has a higher opinion of his own community over the one he works in and who is running around enforcing laws on the residents of the city is rife with potential problems.

      • lizard19

        that first part was a bit of snark, should have made that more clear.

        I do see the potential problems, but I’m not convinced forcing someone to live within city limits is going to solve the attitude represented by Muir’s perception of “quality living”.

        what about ensuring the city has a good hiring process that includes gauging the community investment a department-head hire has for the city?

  3. Crow

    Jaffe accidentally reinforced the truth that only Muir had the cajones to tell us. The quality of life is better in the county than it is in the city because of the great job Engen, Jaffe and their cronies have done densifying, urbanizing, and blighting the city of Missoula while increasing spending 30+ percent.

    • lizard19

      I love my quality of life. I love biking around town, and when I was younger, it was great to be able to walk home from downtown after a late night with friends.

    • JC

      Define “quality of life”.

        • JC

          You saying that nobody has ever been wrongfully arrested outside of the city by Missoula County Sheriffs Dept? Or that nobody has whined about it like the guy in the article you cite?

          WHile sympathetic with Palmer’s plight, he is not unique. I know of many instances of police abuse all over the state by police, sheriffs, Highway patrol officers, jailers, jails, etc…

          It’s easy to beat up on the city for this one instance because Palmer got vocal. Many other people just clam up. Or they take the police/sheriff’s dept to court and win a civil lawsuit that precludes the plaintiff from talking to the media (a person very close to me had this happen a decade or so ago around missoula).

          So why not just say that Montana’s burgeoning police state and incarceration business takes its toll on “quality of life” at all levels and all across the state? Why single out Missoula City, proper?

          • Crow

            A little unsusceptible to sarcasm are we? The quality of life argument is subjective. I would imagine in general those arguing that the quality of life is better outside of the city define quality of life by less density, lower traffic, affordable housing, the option to have horses or livestock, and much lower property taxes. Other people think those things stink.

  4. JC

    “Out of town cops… a good thing?”

    Yeah, the whole Hells Angels debacle is an example of everything that can go wrong when a police and sheriff’s department get out of control and out of touch with their community (not to mention a mayor who decided to vacation on a remote island on a lake in northern canada during the event).

    But what really needs to happen is a commitment by the city and its defenders to community-based policing. Everything that Muir & Co. and much of the Council and Mayor are doing is antithetical to that.

    Oh, and welcome back to the trenches, jhwygirl! Good to see you throwing punches again!

    • lizard19

      if I was a cop, I’m not sure how excited I’d be to run across the guy I had just arrested for DUI the next day shopping at the Food Farm. part of me understands why an officer might want to get a bit out of the city to live.

      it would make more sense for those in top leadership positions, who don’t have to carry around the baggage of sometimes contentious, sometimes dangerous, day-to-day interactions.

      I also think there are other, more pressing issues the city needs to deal with, like problems with the municipal courts, and problems with the jail.

      pushing a residency ordinance is going to be divisive. that is the last thing we need right now.

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