As a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor for over ten years, I have worked closely with law enforcement personnel and have much respect for the type of job they do. Recently, I felt the need to write a letter in regards to a distressing experience that occurred on August 2-3, 2013 during Creamery Picnic weekend in Stevensville.
Growing up in Stevi and being involved in its history and heritage has always been an important part of my life. Spending time visiting, watching the parade, listening to good music and celebrating in the local bars are all elements of the festivities. I understand it is a choice to partake in the consumption of alcohol and that a designated driver is mandatory. Being the designated driver this weekend, supervision was provided by me so that my adult children and their friends would be able to celebrate.
On Friday night, as the local bars closed around 1:30 a.m. and we walked the two blocks to our car, three out of the four of us jogged the last block and within seconds found ourselves surrounded by five patrol vehicles and eight law enforcement officers. We were not yelling, being disruptive or disturbing the peace. The reason we were given for being stopped was because we had “been running down the street, spread out,” and the officers were “concerned for our safety.”
It is understandable that law enforcement needs to be on ‘high alert’ during this time, but one police car and two officers could have handled this situation. On Saturday night, after leaving the bars around 1:45 a.m., a parked police car observed us walk towards our car, pulled out behind our car on Main Street and proceeded to pull us over for the second time. One of the same officers from the previous night asked me, “Are you tired of us yet, Wendie?” While waiting to be cleared we noticed that three law enforcement vehicles were blocking traffic so no one could get in or out of town on Main Street.
The following morning I went to the Stevensville Police Station to file a complaint. Over the past few years, individuals have complained about how incidents are handled between law enforcement and the public during Creamery Picnic weekend. There do need to be guidelines and laws when crowds gather for events, but a fine line may be easily crossed where law enforcement employees can become over-zealous and cause feelings of intimidation and harassment.
Hopefully, by writing this letter and filing a complaint with the town of Stevensville and the Police Department, there can be some feedback and extra training can be provided for officers working with the public next year, before circumstances worsen. Anyone who would like to voice their concerns or opinions regarding this issue, please write a letter to the local newspaper editor or call/write to Stevensville Mayor Gene Mack, 206 Buck Street, Stevensville MT 59870, (406) 381-0288 or Police Chief James Marble, 206 Buck Street, Stevensville MT 59870, (406) 777-3011.
I feel passionately about the future of Creamery Picnic and the traditions that so many of us cherish.
Wendie Wortman Bauer