BILLINGS – The Billings Police Department has been stretched thin after three fatal shootings involving officers in just over a month.
On Monday, the department was down 13 officers, all on administrative leave during shooting investigations. Officers are typically placed on administrative leave following a fatal shooting incident.
The Billings Police Department has 150 sworn officers, which is below the national average for officers. A little more than half are patrol officers.
On Oct. 18, two officers were involved in a shooting at the Lazy KT Motel, and they returned to work just last week.
The eight officers involved in the incident at Big Bear Sports on Nov. 4 are still on leave but are expected to return this week.
Five more officers were placed on leave this weekend, after a shooting on Bunting Street early Saturday. BPD officials have not said when they expect those five officers back.
Lt. Neil Lawrence said the department is managing despite being unexpectedly short-staffed.
Officers have come in early, stayed late and signed up for extra shifts so the department is able to maintain its minimum staffing requirements.
“I think we’ve managed it very well,” said Lawrence. “Our officers step up, they know what needs to be done and they do a great job of filling those gaps and working the extra hours needed to cover those shifts so they do a great job with it.”
Officers on administrative leave are allowed back to work once an internal investigation is complete and officers go through the required steps, including a visit to a doctor to make sure they are mentally ready to return.
MTN’s Samantha Harrelson