Sidney Police Department Chief Frank DiFonzo submitted a letter for City Council approval regarding his retirement request for Tuesday, March 31. Council members voted to approve the request on Tuesday, Jan. 21.

“It has been my great honor to serve this community and its citizens for more than 50 years as a law enforcement officer, the last 39 years of which as Chief of Police,” DiFonzo stated in his letter. “During that time I have seen a great many changes to our city and county and I have always tried to approach those changes in a positive manner looking to provide the best service to our community.

“... I believe that this community is now served by one of the best trained and equipped police departments in Montana. Sidney now employs some of the most dedicated and professional officers anywhere in Montana. I sincerely hope that the same support will carry on in the future.”

The position for Sidney Police Department Chief of Police will be posted with job service, Mayor Rick Norby said. A committee has been set up to interview applicants on Feb. 2.

Year-end police report

Chief DiFonzo presented council with a 2019 SPD report, put together by Capt. Mark Kraft.

A total of 481 adults were arrested and eight juveniles. Of the 736 offenses charged last year, 123 were felonies, 470 were misdemeanors, 11 were juvenile misdemeanors and 132 were categorized at “other.”

SPD had a total of 1,609 offenses reported and 1,423 (86%) were cleared. In 2019, SPD answered 6,524 calls for service.

Kraft compared those numbers over the decade, beginning with 2011, which accounted for 3,141 calls for service. Numbers increase until 2018, which saw a slight drop, but increased again in 2019.

In 2011, SPD made 294 arrests. There were a reported 66 DUIs that same year, compared to 120 in 2019. The year with the highest number of DUIs in the last decade is 2014 with 178.

The past year was one of the highest for domestic violence cases as well, with 56 charged.

In conclusion, Kraft wrote, “2019 was an especially challenging year for the Sidney Police Department in a number of ways, the most significant of which was handling two homicide investigations only months apart. Homicides, gratefully, are a rare occurrence in Sidney, so two such cases in one year is really unprecedented. However, the members of this Department responded and demonstrated their dedication, professionalism, resilience, and hard-work under very difficult circumstances.”

In other news

City Council accepted the recommendation made by the Police and Fire Committee to refurbish the Sidney Pierce fire truck in the amount of $124,000.

Fire Marshal Kale Rasmussen gave a December run report for the volunteer fire department. Currently there are 31 firemen in the department and December saw nine fire calls and six accident assist calls. In 2019, the department logged 1,185 hours of training and responded to 160 calls, of which 95 were fire-related.

Tony Barone was reappointed to the Richland County Conservation District Board.

A two-year position on the Planning Board is still open and will be appointed by the mayor. Contact Sidney City Hall for more information.

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