By Eleanor Guerrero
Thursday, August 2, 2018
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Photo by Eleanor Guerrero

After the City has had one prior Chief and an acting chief within a few years, Red Lodge Rotary welcomed new Police Chief Jason Wells (standing) to speak about his vision for policing in town.

The new Police Chief of Red Lodge, Jason Wells, came to Red Lodge Rotary on Thursday, July 27, to speak about his vision for the city.

“I’m really excited about the opportunity to be your chief,” said Wells.

An officer of 20 years, he shared that becoming a police officer to him was “more of a calling.” He sees policing as an opportunity to “make things better. I just really fell in love with the job.”

Although he made it clear that his force will be enforcing the laws, Chief Wells said that he prefers positive reinforcement and that the officers should “be the inspiration.” That means being seen about town on foot patrols, being accessible to the community and speaking in schools. “I’ve talked with the superintendent and he gave permission to do that,” said Wells.

“It’s a great community and we have great officers, really good officers.” He’d like to see more visibility in the community. That includes himself.

“Anyone is welcome to come and meet with me.” He also welcomes citizens to ride alongs after a minimum background check. He said, “I want you to see what we do, who your officers are. I do plan on being accessible.”

Wells admits starting work anticipating July 4th and the Beartooth Rally was “like drinking from a fire hose” but felt both events went off well. He acknowledged after one comment about the noise, “It brings in a lot of revenue.” He said, “People really did behave themselves.”

Wells observed, “It’s kind of an old crowd, professional people that have enough money ‘to put on leather’” from time to time and “act like bikers.”

One Rotarian said that a former police chief was so rarely in the public eye that when he finally would “walk down the street, you’d not really know who he was after 12 years of secrecy.”

Wells agreed and wanted that to change. “Just walk down the street!”

Betty Hecker said, “I really like the attitude. I think you will fit in really well.”

When talking about the recent Rally he said, “With 1,000 bikes, it’s really tough.” But in all, there were very few things law enforcement had to deal with. Only three DUI’s.”

He praised the team that worked together as every year for their professionalism, keeping the rally safe.

Wells is a member of the Montana Police Protection Association, trying to help officers and bring cases to successful prosecution for victims. He also serves on an Attorney General Advisiory Board for law enforcement. “It’s nice to have a say in assisting officers in the community.”

He wants to stress to his officers that “community is very, very important.”

Wells grew up in Laurel and currently lives in the Columbus/Absarokee area but is currently renting a home in Red Lodge while his house is sold. He has a history of community involvement. “When I moved to Columbus, I was a volunteer fireman, a board member of the Rural Fire Department. I served on the school board for seven years.”

Phil Robertson stressed, “You have to know the community you’re working with. What is your agenda?”

Wells said, “I don’t have one. I need to learn this community.”