UTV will help GFPD patrol city parks, trails and downtown, thanks to Business Improvement District donation

The Great Falls Police Department has a new tool in its arsenal for patrolling downtown and city parks and trails.

The Business Improvement District approved a $17,000 donation in July to the Great Falls Police Foundation for the purchase a side by side UTV that was unveiled last week with its official GFPD paint and decals. The UTV also lead the Parade of Lights a few weeks ago.

Officer Adam Hunt, the Business Residential Involving Community, or BRIC officer at GFPD will be the primary user of the UTV in his efforts downtown and patrolling the parks and River’s Edge Trail. Other GFPD officers and volunteers will also be able to use the vehicle.

The trails have always been a concern to GFPD since some areas are difficult to access by vehicle and take longer to get to by bike or foot, said Sgt. Jim Wells. GFPD also had a wench installed on the UTV to help lift people should they get stuck in a tight spot, or down hills along the River’s Edge Trail. It would also help transport injure people quicker if needed, Wells said, though transporting patients is not the police’s primary role.

Hunt and Aaron Frick, one of the school resource officers, do bike patrols during the summer and ride the trail from the GFPD to Giant Springs, which can take awhile, so the UTV would help them get to the trail faster if there was an incident.

Hunt said patrolling in the UTV is completely different that patrolling in their squad cars in that it allows closer interaction with the public and to “be closer to the folks we’re here to serve.”

GFPD Chief Dave Bowen said the vehicle is easily identifiable and believes it will help officers patrol more in certain areas and make the public more comfortable approaching officers on patrol.

Capt. Jeff Newton said there will be policies and procedures for training and use of the UTV, which is street legal and outfitted with Department of Transportation approved tires, valid license plates, turn signals, hazard lights and more.

Auto Trim Design of Great Falls did the paint and the city shop installed the emergency equipment, which includes police lights and the same radio that’s in patrol cars.

“It’s a great, great partnership,” Newton said.