UPDATE: Ronan Police Chief Suspended Over False Documents

By Beacon Staff

MISSOULA – A state board has stripped Ronan’s longtime police chief of his law enforcement certification for 15 years after determining he falsified an application for his son to attend the Montana Law Enforcement Academy at city expense.

The Public Safety Officer Standards and Training Council also permanently revoked six other certifications for Dan Wadsworth last week.

Wadsworth had signed an application in December 2010 certifying that his son, Trevor Wadsworth, was a sworn Ronan police officer qualified to attend the law enforcement academy. However, the council determined that Trevor Wadsworth hadn’t been sworn in until mid-2011, after he left the academy because he was unable to provide a “hire slip” to prove he was employed by the Ronan Police Department.

Only sworn police officers being paid by a municipality can attend the state academy.

Wadsworth said Wednesday he plans to appeal the suspension, and that everything he did with regard to officer training was approved by the city attorney first. Wadsworth alleged the investigation was based on a lie told by an officer he had disciplined and he does not believe the council did a thorough investigation.

He told investigators that the paperwork confirming his son’s swearing in wasn’t provided because it had been stolen. In an earlier interview during the investigation, the board said, Wadsworth said that “Trevor might not have been sworn in” and “that would’ve been just an overlook.”

Former assistant police chief Art Walgren testified that no swearing-in documents existed.

The board operates as part of the Department of Justice. DOJ spokesman John Barnes said the board only has jurisdiction over the credentials it issues.

“While we do hope the Ronan situation will be resolved amicably and at the local level, the Montana Department of Justice is committed to ensuring that only properly trained and credentialed individuals are serving as law enforcement officers,” Barnes told the Missoulian.

The issue comes down to money, Wadsworth said.

The city doesn’t have enough money to send people to the academy and pay them while also covering police shifts, which is also required by state law, he said.

Wadsworth said the mayor and the city attorney thought it was better to deal with a possible labor dispute over pay than not having enough trained officers to patrol the city.

On July 16, the board suspended Wadsworth’s basic law enforcement certification for 15 years and permanently revoked his six other board certifications. State law requires all law enforcement officers to be certified.

The board also recommended further investigation into whether Wadsworth knowingly allowed his son and another officer to serve as sworn officers without proper certification.

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