According to the Missoulian, the Montana state Transportation Department plans to arm as many as 35 of its 120 officers from its Motor Carrier Services Division.
Only the officers who make traffic stops would be armed. The officers who are stationed in scale houses will not be armed.
The decision has drawn criticism from the state’s trucking industry.
On Tuesday, Montana Transportation Director– and former trooper and head of the Montana Highway Patrol–Mike Tooley told the state’s Legislature’s Revenue and Transportation Interim Committee the he plans to arm the officers, the Missoulian reported.
Motor Carriers of Montana Executive Vice President Barry Stang questioned whether or not the agency has the authority to arm its officers without legislative approval.
“I think they lack the legislative authority because they’ve asked the Legislature before and they’ve been turned down,” Stang told the Missoulian.
Stang pointed out that in 1987, Montana lawmakers rejected a request to arm CMV enforcement officers.
Montana Democratic Representative Chuck Hunter said argued that the transportation director has the authority to appoint the CMV officers as peace officers.
“Why do they need a gun to enforce size and weight,” Stang asked.
“I think our major contention is that they should be properly trained and supervised and that supervision is not going to be given to them at Montana Department of Transportation,” Stang said later.
Tooley estimates that it will cost the state $120,000 to train and arm the 35 officers. The money would come from a federal fuel evasion grant.
Tooley told the committee a story about a 1991 Motor Carrier Services officer who stopped a truck driver who was wanted for a double homicide. The Motor Carrier Services officer, who was unarmed, had to call Tooley, who was 91 miles away, for help.
“It’s a public safety issue. Our officers are out there with local law enforcement,” Tooley said.
“As a patrol leader, I always thought they should be armed.”
Tooley told the Missoulian that some Montana law enforcement organizations, as well as the Department of Justice, have endorsed his plan to arm the officers.