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George Floyd of Minneapolis and Breonna Taylor from Louisville are the latest victims of homicide by police officers. All they had in common was their skin color. It was not white. What assurance do the non-white citizens of Gallatin County, who make up 8% of the county's population, have that "it can't happen here?"

I would like the leaders of the five largest law enforcement agencies in our county, Sheriff Brian Gootkin, Bozeman Chief Steve Crawford, Belgrade Chief EJ Clark, Capt. Mark Wilfore, District 7, of the Montana Highway Patrol, and MSU Chief Kevin Gillilan, to answer that question. What makes our officers and deputies different?

What proactive steps have you, the heads of our law enforcement agencies, taken to insure that the armed citizens we employ and trust to serve and protect us will not act like officers in so many other cities across the nation, murdering citizens because of their skin color? And specifically:

What policies and procedures regarding racial issues do you have in place?

What specific training do your sworn staff have in cultural awareness, micro-aggressions, racial abuse, implicit bias, and the history of criminal justice regarding Black, brown, and Indigenous people in this country?

What steps do you take to make sure your sworn and non-sworn staff keep in touch with and have a good relationship with minority communities in your jurisdictions?

Please understand that this letter is a request for information, not a statement of suspicion or an accusation. It is a request for reassurance that, "it won't happen here."

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John Heilman

Bozeman