Boosting overnight staffing a priority for Kalispell Police chief following audit

Daily Inter Lake | August 8, 2023 12:00 AM

Increasing overnight staffing levels as recommended in a recent audit of the Kalispell Police Department is a priority for new Chief Jordan Venezio.

Boosting the number of officers on the graveyard shift was among over 70 recommendations made in a report issued earlier this year by law enforcement consulting firm the Center for Public Safety Management. The proposals followed a review of the Kalispell Police Department undertaken by the center.

Venezio, who was promoted to oversee the department in July, said that the recommendation is among many in the report that were expected, and that agency officials are in discussions to reevaluate staffing levels and officer scheduling.

The review found that overnight staffing can consist of as few as two officers at a time, which consultants felt was too small a number. In their report, the law enforcement experts wrote that the staffing level could make it “impractical and unsafe for officers to engage in any proactive policing” during those shifts.

While Venezio listed overnight staffing levels as a priority, he offered few details about his plans for the undertaking, saying that the department is looking into it.

“There is no greater priority to me as chief than the safety of our officers and our community,” Venezio wrote in an email response to a list of questions about the audit. “Our department is currently engaged in conversation to set staffing for the next calendar year.”

The report also recommended that the department hire five full-time equivalent officers to help with the workload, a point with which Venezio agreed.

“Our department needs additional [full time employees],” wrote Venezio. “The exact amount will change based upon scheduling and service level being provided. The consultant report is a great place to start and work from. Now, we can use this report as a foundation and engage with stakeholders to see what our specific needs are.”

The report also recommended changes to the department’s internal recordkeeping and accountability processes.

“The KPD needs stronger accountability systems in place, starting with front-line supervisors and working their way through the organization with greater checks and balances,” reads the report.

In their review, consultants found that the department lacked a system to track officer use of fleet vehicles and that certain damage to police vehicles went unexplained.

Venezio said that the department has partnered with a local nonprofit organization to address the issue, but did not offer details. He said officials would provide more information at a later date.

The report recommended that department brass regularly and randomly review footage from body cameras, a task that consultants described as a best practice for law enforcement agencies nationwide.

Venezio deemed the recommendation in need of “further exploration.” He didn’t go into specifics on when the department reviews body camera footage, but said that the agency reviews “a significant amount of [body-worn camera] footage.”

“We have a very high standard of officer conduct,” Venezio said.

Consultants highlighted concerns with the department’s handling and retention of evidence in the report and in person. Author Jarrod Burguan told Kalispell City Council last month that the size and state of the department’s evidence storage room left him with “significant concerns about the intermingling of evidence.”

Venezio said that the department was aware of the issues, and said that the evidence room is too small to implement the report’s recommendations. He said that increasing construction costs put previously planned renovations on hold.

The chief said that the department needed to address the lack of space before considering undergoing a third-party evidence handling audit as consultants advised.

Consultants said that many of the report’s findings shared commonalities with similar audits. Overall, Burguan said he was “very impressed” with the department.

“It is important that we emphasize that this list of recommendations, though lengthy, is common in our operational assessments of agencies around the country,” reads the report.

Venezio said the department was happy to cooperate with the consultants and said officers understood the value of hearing from industry experts with knowledge of nationwide law enforcement trends.

“Our department welcomed an outside perspective in how we serve our community,” he said. “It is important to be able to take feedback, even if it is a suggestion to improve, if we want to make sure our community is being provided the best public safety practices in modern policing.”

Reporter Adrian Knowler can be reached at 758-4407 or

Read this article on Daily Interlake.