Montana truck enforcement officers may soon be armed

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Thursday, October 03, 2013

The Montana Revenue and Transportation Interim Committee met on Tuesday, Oct. 1, to discuss issues that include truck enforcement during a more than eight-hour meeting.

During a presentation by Transportation Director Mike Tooley, lawmakers learned about his plan to arm some officers who are with Motor Carrier Services.

Tooley said the commercial vehicle inspectors need to be able to carry weapons. He cited an incident more than 20 years ago in which a DOT officer stopped a truck and learned the driver was wanted for two murders in California.

“They’re peace officers and they have arrest powers yet they don’t carry a sidearm,” Tooley testified. “Not only is it an officer safety issue but it’s a public safety issue."

Tooley estimated it would cost about $120,000 to buy weapons. Initially, he said it won’t cost the state anything because the money will come from a federal grant for dyed diesel enforcement.

The director also informed lawmakers that the department has the authority to move forward without legislative consent.

Barry “Spook” Stang, executive vice president of the Motor Carriers of Montana, spoke at the hearing. He said that while it appears Tooley doesn’t have to rely on lawmakers for approval the trucker’s group doesn’t see why officers enforcing size and weight need weapons.

“Their job is size and weight enforcement. They don’t have the authority to stop an individual driving too fast in their car,” Stang told “Land Line Now.”

He said arming truck enforcement could also create more problems.

“It’s more likely to bring about a conflict rather than solve a conflict.”

Another complaint voiced by Stang covers using the federal fuel evasion grant to buy weapons for 30 to 35 officers.

“That money could be better used to go out and do actual contact with people who might be using dyed diesel when they’re not supposed to,” he said.

Stang also questions what kind of training and supervision the officers would receive from the DOT. He says in most states where vehicle enforcement officers are armed they’re under the highway patrol – not the DOT. 

“Land Line Now” reporter Reed Black contributed to this report.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Montana, click here.

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