- Associated Press - Monday, July 7, 2014

BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) - The police chief of the town of West Yellowstone selectively enforced the law, violated court orders and, in some cases, either did not know or chose not to follow the law, a state investigation of the police department found.

The full report by the Montana Division of Criminal Investigation remains confidential, but a judge allowed West Yellowstone Town Attorney Jane Mersen to release a summary last week.

The Town Council asked in May to see the full report after it recommended criminal charges be filed against police Chief Gordon Berger. No charges have yet been filed.

In June, Berger told the council that many of the problems in his department stemmed from the challenges of policing a remote, small town, and they were not caused by leadership woes.

Mersen’s summary, dated July 1, said the state found evidence that Berger selectively enforced certain laws and town ordinances and told officers and others not to issue citations to certain people.

Investigators found Berger told officers to stop people if they were driving while talking on cellphones and cite them for careless driving. But West Yellowstone doesn’t have a cellphone ordinance and state law requires probable cause that a crime has been committed before an officer can legally stop a vehicle.

The state determined that Berger at least twice helped people get Montana car titles for vehicles reported stolen in Idaho and that, at the very least, he failed to check the vehicle identification number, Mersen wrote.

Montana also uncovered “substantial” evidence that Berger did not follow laws on sales of town property and abandoned vehicles and that he has requested K-9 searches of cars without probable cause, she said.

Berger came in contact with a felon in illegal possession of a gun and did not seize the gun, arrest the felon or complete an investigative file, investigators found. The person was later arrested and charged in Idaho.

The state determined that Berger several times did not know the law or chose not to enforce it in domestic assault and DUI cases and that he did not follow court orders when defendants were sentenced to jail or drug testing.

There was more information in the report, Mersen said, but she included the allegations “that are supported by either direct witness statements or documentary evidence. This summary is necessarily vague in order to keep confidential the identities of the witnesses.”

Gallatin County Sheriff Brian Gootkin earlier this year found West Yellowstone police officers lacked adequate training and recommended the state investigation.

Gootkin began looking into the department after the National Park Service cited training and safety concerns last fall in suspending its mutual aid agreement with West Yellowstone police.

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