Hardin is on the hunt for a new police chief after Donald Babbin resigned to take a job closer to his home in New Hampshire.
Babbin was tasked with bringing the department back to life in 2021.
“What’s important is that the citizens of the city see what we have done,” he says.
Babbin essentially started the department from scratch. There were no vehicles, weapons, badges, or other employees when he arrived in Hardin nearly two years ago.
By the end of the year, the city once again had a police department that now employs 10 people.
“What I’m really proud of is the short time we have been up and running and everything that was thrown at us. We muddled through, and we have come out on top,” said Babbin.
He says the department now averages between 600 to 700 calls a month and makes around 40 arrests, mostly for minor crimes and warrants.
“I believe the city of Hardin has a great foundation for proactive law enforcement. I believe they have the tools, the policy, to perform at the next level,” he says.
Babbin praised the support has gotten from both citizens and the city.
“It’s not often you see a city or city government support the police at 100 percent. The council through mayor has supported this agency at 110 percent,” he says.
But Babbin also leaves with a few frustrations.
“The county administration has, in my opinion, tried to dismantle this agency. And every time they have attempted something, with trying to arrest me or get an arrest warrant for an officer. We have pushed through and we have done things correctly.”
Babbin is referring to an incident that happened at the Town Pump in March of 2022 when the Big Horn County attorney pursued charges against him and another officer after a man claimed police had used excessive force against him.
The charges went nowhere and were eventually dropped.
But the friction between the city and county remains. Babbin says he can’t be sure of the reasons why.
“They took away the funding that was given to the county and they wanted to resurrect this department. That could be one reason. The other reason is I’m not from Montana. That might be one reason why there was some pushback,” he says.
Babbin has expressed frustration about a lack of cooperation from previous Big Horn County officials, who have not responded to those allegations.
Babbin leaves believing a solid foundation is set for the police department’s future and says it will take a strong chief moving forward.
“Whoever sits in this chair again needs that support and we need to work together. I’m extremely grateful that we do have citizens that do support this agency, that see the difference that we have made, and we need to continue that,” he says.