In Park

A Three Forks patrol car sits in the parking lot of the Thriftway convenience store in Three Forks Thursday afternoon.

The hunt is still on for a Three Forks Chief of Police. Last month long-time Chief Troy Burdick retired from his position, saying he was abandoning his post for medical reasons.

Three Forks Mayor Gene Townsend said there has been no formal job posting for the position because he hasn’t decided whether a new chief should be hired from within the department or whether the town would be better served by opening up the job to outside candidates.

Since Burdick’s retirement, the tiny police department had to enlist outside help to cover the chief’s absence. The entire Three Forks police squad consists of three people, two officers and the chief. The chief is largely responsible for handling the barrage of paperwork that comes with police work. The two officers do everything else.

In an event like Burdick’s resignation, the city’s mayor can act as the Chief of Police per se until a replacement is hired.

Currently, one of the Three Forks officers is out of town in Asia training with his army reserve unit. Townsend said he will wait to move forward with the hiring until that officer returns in April, so he can throw his hat in the ring for the position or at least give feedback about other candidates. Townsend said he does want to make sure that whoever is hired as chief has the proper training.

“We’ve taken the policy that we try to hire people who have been through the academy,” he said. “We had a gentleman who put in for the job that has all kinds of experience.”

Townsend said people have heard about the vacant position and started submitting applications, even though the job hasn’t been advertised.  

The two officers currently working for the Three Forks Police Department haven’t been with the department long. Colter Metcalf has been with the department a year, while Sean Gifford hasn’t yet celebrated his first anniversary at the police station.

When Burdick resigned, he was getting paid $24.50 an hour and working 40 hours per week. The future chief’s salary will depend on experience, Townsend said.

To pick up the slack from Burdick’s absence and Gifford’s overseas training, two Manhattan police officers take a shift a piece per week at the Three Forks Police Department. A former Manhattan officer who currently works for the Montana Department of Gambling Investigations helps out on weekends, too.

Townsend said Sheriff Brian Gootkin has been very helpful is sending extra deputy patrols out near the Three Forks since they have been short staffed.

The mayor hopes to get the public’s input on a new chief, but hasn’t set a date for a meet-and-greet type meeting, since applications are still being collected.

“I’m contemplating a forum where the public can come and give input,” Townsend said. “I can’t put a timeline on it yet. We’re just getting everything sorted out now and trying to get everyone together and in for interviews.”

Townsend said he expects city council and the Three Forks residents will choose a new chief by the end of May or early June.