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Gone from KPD, county commissioner candidate Parce under review by state bureau

by DERRICK PERKINS
Hagadone News Network | April 15, 2022 4:00 PM

Jason Parce, who has made his career in local law enforcement a tentpole of his campaign for the Flathead County Board of Commissioners, no longer works as a police officer for the Kalispell Police Department and is under review by the state bureau that oversees public safety officer certification.

Parce joined the department in 2008 and served as one half of the agency’s canine unit. An image of him and K-9 Cairo, who left the organization with Parce, still appears on the department’s website.

Parce is one of four Republican candidates vying for the county commission’s District 2 seat in the June 7 primary election. Other Republicans appearing on the primary ballot include incumbent Pam Holmquist, businessman Brian Freiss and Jack Fallon, vice chair of the Kalispell School District board.

Kalispell Police Chief Doug Overman declined to discuss the circumstances surrounding Parce’s recent departure, saying that he would let Parce “comment on the reason he moved on.”

Parce likewise declined to comment, saying he was “not at liberty to discuss that at this point,” citing “processes that need to play out.”

But Parce said disagreements with higher-ups played a role in his departure.

“We had some differences between myself and administration,” he said.

Since his departure, Parce has come to the attention of the Montana Public Safety Officer Standards and Training (POST) Bureau. Executive Director Eric Gilbertson said April 14 that the organization has received an allegation regarding Parce. Bureau policy is to refer questions about the nature of allegations back to the originating agency, he said.

“Every time a public safety officer is terminated, the agency has to notify POST,” Gilbertson said. “We received the information [about the allegation] along with the notice of termination for him.”

But Gilbertson said the bureau’s case status committee will review the allegation in a public meeting scheduled for 10 a.m., May 24. The POST council reviews complaints and can revoke or suspend officer certification. Gilbertson described it as a civil process.

Upon review, the case status committee will recommend next steps. Those can include requesting more information about the complaint or advising the executive director to close the file. The body also can advise that the bureau send a letter outlining the allegations to the officer involved, giving them 35 days to respond.

If the officer fails to respond in that window, the organization revokes his or her certificate, but gives them another 30 days to request a hearing. If the officer responds, POST launches an investigation, the results going back before the case status committee. They then decide appropriate sanctions.

The officer can accept or reject those sanctions, as well as attempt negotiations. Rejection — or a failed counteroffer — leads to a third letter outlining sanctions. Officers at that point have 30 days to request another hearing.

Parce said last week that he was unaware of the allegation before POST.

As for his campaign, he said he had begun making his departure from the Kalispell Police Department known to voters.

Though Parce’s campaign website refers to his law enforcement experience in the past tense, letters to the editor supporting his bid for the county commission often refer to him as a current police officer. He is no longer associated with any law enforcement agency, he said.

Parce noted the changes to his campaign website. Those include removing a description of him as a “beloved peace officer” on the landing page.

“We just didn’t want to give any impression that I’m still actively with the department,” he said. “When the campaign came out, I was still active with the department.”

Parce launched his campaign in March. He said his recent departure from the Kalispell Police Department did not take away from his career in law enforcement or the knowledge of the issues pressing voters gained while working as an officer.

“There were a lot of great things that I was involved in in my career and that doesn’t change,” he said.

News Editor Derrick Perkins can be reached at 758-4430 or dperkins@dailyinterlake.com

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