Hardin’s new police chief has big aspirations for the small department.
Paul George took over the fledgling department late this summer.
“I have the opportunity to build a department that I have envisioned for years,” says George.
He never imagined it would be in Montana.
“I’ve been enjoying it since I’ve been here. I’ve really been enjoying the city—loving the landscape of Montana. Loving the people. The people are completely different than down in the Southeast. People are a lot nicer,” he says.
It’s quite a contrast from Atlanta where the new chief last worked—not that Hardin or any place these days is immune from crime.
“There’s a lot of crime that comes off the interstate into the city,” George says.
He’s been busy trying to hire and train officers to get the department up to full staff. Currently there are six officers on staff, but it’s slotted for nine. His hope is that number will grow in the future.
“I’m very community-oriented. I love a community-oriented police officer and police department,” the new chief says.
George is a native of St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, but grew up in southeast Georgia. He has been in law enforcement most of his life.
He started volunteering as a police explorer at the age of 14. This is his first job as a chief.
“When you are a young boy playing with your neighborhood friends and play cops and robbers, most young boys grow out of that. And fortunately, I never did. I stuck with it, pursued it and here I am today,” he says.
In Hardin, he might just be making Montana history.
“There’s not a lot of African-Americans in Montana to begin with. I’ve done my own research and think I might be the first African-American chief in Montana,” he laughs.
He doesn’t think that puts extra pressure on him.
“I’ve always stayed on the right path so I don’t think there is any pressure at all. I think it is a good thing and I think it just paves the way for other minorities to exceed to the top,” he says.
George says that so far people have been welcoming and he believes he’ll be able to forge a good working relationship with the Big Horn County Sheriff’s Office.
Donald Babbin, the previous chief who started the department two years ago, had voiced frustrations about the relationship with the county—but now there is both a new sheriff and a new police chief.
“I know there were some issues with the prior chief and some constituents within the county but I’m hoping with a new face and new vision that we won’t have those same issues,” George says.
He says his goal is to turn this small department into one of the premier police departments in the state.
“There’s definitely a need here and that’s what the community wants and what I hope to give them is the professional, effective law enforcement services that they are wanting,” he says.