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Libby Chief offers more detailed statistics during regular report

by DERRICK PERKINS
Daily Inter Lake | February 18, 2022 7:00 AM

Libby Police Chief Scott Kessel expanded the range of statistics he presents city councilors last week, saying he wanted to give officials a clearer picture of the goings-on in the municipality.

“As far as my monthly report — and I welcome input from the council — it’s been pretty cut and dry, and doesn’t tell you a lot,” he told city councilors on Feb. 7. “I’m trying to do what I can to improve, but at the same time maintain confidentiality.”

During previous regular updates to city council, Kessel listed the number of service calls the police department handled the month prior and provided statistics on arrests, citations and city ordinance violations. He typically reports items of interest as well, including training updates, personnel changes and, in winter, reminders about the city’s snow parking ban and sidewalk cleaning requirements.

At last week’s meeting, Kessel included more detailed statistics for city councilors. The department responded to 237 service calls, up from 194 in 2021. Officers fielded 21 city ordinance violations, many related to snow removal, Kessel said. They performed 72 traffic stops, with about a quarter of those resulting in citations.

“A lot of this is trying to correct behavior and, obviously, traffic tickets are not designed to be a revenue generating system,” Kessel said. “We don’t treat them as such. If someone deserves a ticket, they will get one. Otherwise, it’s education.”

Officers also responded to eight vehicle crashes, 22 disturbances and 14 property crimes. Kessel said officers were involved in 10 investigations he deemed “sensitive,” meaning they involved drug crimes, sex crimes, child abuse or a death, for example.

“Obviously, we’re not going to go into a lot of detail on those,” Kessel said.

The chief delivered his report via Zoom, telling city councilors that COVID-19 had once again struck the department. One officer was out with the illness at the time of the report and many others were exposed, Kessel said. He said he made the decision to report in remotely “out of an abundance of caution.”

He noted that Jonathan Graham, who recently took a position at the city’s water treatment plant, but stayed on with the department as a part time officer, was filling in that week.

“… We retained him as a paid part time officer for these type of eventualities where we’re shorthanded,” Kessel said. “If we’re going to pay anybody overtime, it might as well be someone trained and competent with our system.”