New Nonprofit Seeks to Help Local Law Enforcement

Friends of Flathead Law Enforcement raising funds to provide supplies to Kalispell police, sheriff’s deputies

By Justin Franz

After an incident three years ago in Sylvia Owen’s neighborhood resulted in the arrest of a dangerous criminal, she wanted to thank the officers who selflessly report to duty every day.

In order to learn more about the law enforcement community, she signed up for one of the Kalispell Police Department’s citizen academies. Later she did a ride-along with an officer. During the ride-along she asked what the officers needed and learned that in some cases newly hired cops have to provide some of their own equipment because of a tight department budget.

For example, Kalispell officers buy their own pistol and an extra set of handcuffs. If they want to have a couple extra uniforms, they need to spring for those, too. Owen said a new officer could easily spend upwards of $3,000 starting out to secure all necessary supplies.

But regular citizens can’t donate directly to a police department. So to resolve that issue, Owen started working with the Flathead Community Foundation to create the Friends of Flathead Law Enforcement, a nonprofit booster group that supports the Kalispell Police Department and Flathead County Sheriff’s Office.

“The local officers do so much for us, so I wanted to find a way to show our appreciation,” she said. “These officers often see the worst of our community, but we want to show them the best of it.”

The group’s primary goal is to raise funds and offer grants to the local police associations (also nonprofits) that in turn can be used to purchase gear for officers. The Kalispell Police Department is the recipient of the first grant. The booster group is also raising money to buy a pair of needle-resistant duty gloves for every Kalispell officer and county deputy. Owen said the gloves would be especially useful when investigating drug-related crime scenes.

The Friends of Flathead Law Enforcement also organized a picnic for Kalispell officers last August and sent a holiday card to each one at the end of the year. Owen said that letting the officers know the community appreciates them and their work is important.

Owen said she hopes to raise more money in the future and help other departments throughout the valley. For more information visit www.ffle-mt.org.

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