Lonely cops

Earlier this month, a letter cropped up in Darby calling for the town council not to fill the recently vacated deputy marshal position. And while the folks spearheading the initiative have gathered more than 150 signatures, 27-year Darby Marshal Larry Rose brushed it off.

"We just laughed at it," Rose says. "These people don't know what they're talking about, they don't know the facts, and looking at the list, these folks are frequent fliers in our courts. Some of them aren't even in this jurisdiction."

However, the letter did strike a nerve. Rose insists his small department is historically short-staffed, and that Montana Highway Patrol and the Ravalli County Sheriff's Department are often too busy to lend a hand in the southern Bitterroot Valley. Contrary to what the letter's drafter, Jim Corbett, has stated, Rose maintains he could use as many as two or three new deputies to cover enforcement duties in the Darby area.

"There's no way one guy can take care of this, there's just no way," Rose says. "We wouldn't be able to answer all of these calls."

Stevensville Police Chief James Marble is all too familiar with the problem Rose faces. For months last year he was Stevensville's only cop, handling all the duties of a municipal department himself. And while he now has several part-time officers on staff, he recently suffered an injury to his Achilles heel—driving home the point that, in the event of illness or injury, one officer just isn't enough.

"In a bigger city, like Missoula, you've got detectives, you've got administration, you've got some guys who work strictly traffic, you've got the regular patrol officers," Marble says. "You can break it down into several different divisions. In a small town, you have to be all those things."

Marble adds that he doesn't understand why small communities often view public safety expenses as a "liquid asset," but Corbett insists his beef with Darby isn't financial. He only wants the town council to open the replacement up for public debate and gauge the perceived need for a two-man law team.

"It's a great expense to have an officer in a town of 750 people approximately, and we have a very heavy show of force down here all the time," Corbett says. "I really don't feel we need it."

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