Early Montana history was largely one of lawlessness and vigilantism. When Montana was part of the Idaho territory in 1863, the gold rush in Bannack and Virginia City attracted criminals and raiders in a gang known as the “Road Agents.” The band of thugs particularly raided tougher parts of the wagon trail supply line around Alder Gulch, and some estimate as many as 102 people were murdered in 1863 alone. Responding to the lawlessness were various vigilante committees, perhaps the most famous of such in all of the Old West. The solution to the thuggery would not be found until the mid-1880s and Montana could adequately provide law enforcement from taxed resources and the vigilantes could be carefully disbanded.
Some in Bozeman, reportedly hundreds, want to return to pre-1863 lawlessness and disband the police.
According to reports by the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, Bozeman City Commissioners had to consider their usual allocation of $10 million dollars out of a total of $34 million in the general fund, ordinarily designated to the Bozeman Police Department. However, protestors incensed at “racial inequality” stemming from the death of a recidivist criminal in Minneapolis, George Floyd, had the clamoring to re-allocate those funds elsewhere. The move would potentially leave the Bozeman Police Department unable to operate.
Some outspoken critics of the police encouraged the commissioners to give the money to social services, while others insisted it should be spent on sensitivity training. Others still argued that the police should not be present at Bozeman High School, with one individual claiming that the police presence “never made me feel safe.”
Others still insisted the money should be used to combat poverty which “creates crime” or upon “de-escalation specialists” who could talk people out of doing violent things. There was no talk reported of using the funds to provide pixie dust to make Bozeman’s herd of unicorns fly, but it’s possible that was suggested as well.
Commissioner Terry Cunningham said he received over 400 comments regarding the allocation or re-allocation of police funds and the city would make a decision on Monday.
One wonders what Bozeman would look like with police no longer performing the services of law enforcement. but 2020 appearing more like 1863 is not far-fetched. Few protestors have seemed to recognize the lack of hate crimes in Bozeman and the very good record of police conduct within the city. But to some, facts did not seem to matter as much as solidarity with a growing nationwide movement to handicap law enforcement and impugn them based upon the actions of a few rogue officers.