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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

'Sheriffs First' Bill Makes Another Appearance At The Montana Legislature

FBI agents and other federal officers would have to ask permission from a local sheriff before making an arrest or conducting a search, under a bill heard today in a House Committee.

Gary Marbut, with the Montana Shooting Sports Association, told the Judiciary Committee that while different police agencies usually get along, the “feds” sometimes run roughshod over local deputies, as they did in the 1996 raid that netted ‘Unabomber’ Ted Kazynski.

“That wonderful working relationship lasts until someone from Washington DC tells the local feds ‘keep the sheriff out of this.’ This bill would remedy that and would require cooperation at the local level.”

Most of the witnesses against the bill came from local law enforcement, such as Valley County Attorney Nick Murnion, who called it unnecessary.

“A sheriff cannot have the authority to tell a federal law enforcement official that he can't come into our county. It just doesn’t work, and as a practical matter, with our Freemen standoff, we needed some assistance.”

Besides requiring federal agents to get permission before conducting raids in Montana, the law declares that county sheriffs are the “chief law enforcement officer” of the county.

Similar laws have been passed three times by the Montana Legislature, and vetoed by the governor each time.

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