Helena Police Department mourns Assistant Chief Stinson

Curt Stinson
Curt Stinson Photos
Posted at 4:52 PM, Oct 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-18 21:06:34-04

HELENA — The Helena Police Department is mourning the loss of its second-in-command.

HPD leaders say Assistant Chief Curt Stinson passed away on Friday. He was diagnosed with cancer in July and had been in treatment after that.

Stinson started with the department in January of 1995. Steve Hagen, today Helena’s police chief, was at the time one of his training officers.

“I know everybody says it, but Curt truly was an inspiring human being,” Hagen said. “He cared very much about this community, was very active both inside the department and outside the department, in the community, in his church and all those kinds of things. Curt dedicated 27 years of his life to serving this community, and I think that should be honored.”

Stinson became assistant chief last year.

Hagen said this is the first time in his 30 years with HPD that they have lost an active member. He said Stinson actually helped put together the department’s procedures for line-of-duty deaths.

“That helped us in this case to know what his wishes were,” said Hagen.

Before he had been diagnosed with cancer, Stinson had suggested HPD participate in the “Pink Patch Project,” a nationwide program in which public safety agencies sell commemorative patches to raise money and awareness for breast cancer research. After his diagnosis, HPD officers continued that effort. They also added 300 patches in lavender – the color for all cancers. They sold the patches for $5, with the proceeds from the lavender ones going to Stinson and his family.

“We had lots of people donate above and beyond that amount,” Hagen said.

All in all, they have raised about $3,400 for the Stinson family, and another $1,000 for breast cancer research.

Hagen said the department has had chaplains in to work with officers, and Stinson’s family is receiving support as well. In the coming days, they will be working with the family to determine what kind of memorial is appropriate.

“We want to make sure the family’s wishes are honored,” said Hagen.

Hagen said HPD officers escorted Stinson to the funeral home and are currently providing an honorary watch for him through the time of his memorial service.

“We just honor Curt’s memory and what he’s meant to not only the department and the city, but this community as a whole,” he said.

Hagen announced earlier this year that he plans to retire at the end of October. In light of his assistant chief’s illness, he says the city has been working on an alternate plan for transitioning leadership. He assured the public they will have that plan in place very soon.

“We will still continue to serve this community to the best of our ability, and we’ll work through it,” he said.

UPDATE: During a Helena City Commission meeting Monday evening, leaders held a brief moment of silence in Stinson’s honor. City manager Rachel Harlow-Schalk also announced that Hagen will be delaying his retirement for several months. She plans to open the police chief position for recruitment later this year, and said this will allow them to make use of Hagen’s experience and knowledge during the transition.