BILLINGS – Three police officers disciplined for having sex on the job or on public property argued in court documents they would have a "bad reputation" that would affect their jobs if their names were released.
"The Petitioner’s future employment and his ability to protect and serve the community will be affected because the (officer) will have a bad reputation in the community," each motion for a temporary restraining order reads.
The officers’ conduct came to light as part of an unrelated investigation. They had sex with the same woman either on city property or while on duty over the course of four separate incidents.
After city officials announced they would disclose the names of the officers, all three officers filed temporary restraining orders that would bar the city from releasing their names.
However, those motions for temporary restraining orders included the officers’ names. District Court Judge Michael Moses granted the orders and required the documents to be revised, but the case is still being contested by the Billings Gazette and KTVQ. The new documents filed Monday identify the officers only as "Unidentified Officer 1," "Unidentified Officer 2" and "Unidentified Officer 3."
The officers’ attorneys argue that the officers’ right to privacy outweighs the public’s right to know their identities.
"Here, there is no compelling state interest that would override the Montana Constitutional protections afforded to the (officer)," the motion says. "The conduct described in the Petitioner’s Affidavit was private in nature and did not amount to an incident that would require public disclosure. … The (officer) did not cause the public harm by his actions, nor did he break any laws."
The motions are accompanied by affidavits in which the officers tell their side of the story. All three use identical language about effects on the officers’ jobs:
"I am still a Billings Police Officer and I feel it may impact my ability to do my job as a police officer if the community is made aware of my name."
All three affidavits also emphasize the effect on the officers’ families:
"Having my name kept out of the media will protect my family from more unneeded pain and suffering. This is already affecting them in their daily lives outside the home and also in the home. I have already owned up for what I have done. Professionally I have been disciplined and personally I have suffered. I do not feel that having more people know about the situation will help anything."
The documents also shed light on the incidents themselves.
One officer took the involved woman on a ride-along in his patrol car in March 2016.
"During that time, she became flirtatious. She told me about the other officers she had sex with. Throughout the night the emotions started to get more involved," an affidavit reads.
The officer pulled into a private parking lot and the two had sex outside of the officer’s vehicle.
"I was on duty. However, I missed no calls," the affidavit reads.
Two other incidents occurred in the City Hall basement. One officer was "off duty and not working as a police officer," but went to the police station in 2016. The affidavit doesn’t say why, but says he and the woman had sex in the basement of the records room.
A different officer had sex on his lunch break in 2013 in a basement room described as "the former filing room."
That officer had sex again in a basement filing room in 2015.
"I was on light duty," the affidavit says. "I didn’t miss any calls, nor was I on patrol."
The affidavits continue using identical language, describing how each of the officers said they were called in by a police captain early in 2018 and asked if they had sex with the woman in question. Each of the officers admitted they did, and they were called in as part of an internal investigation about three weeks later.
In March 2018, a police captain told the officers they were "looking at a suspension."
Documents show each officer was served a letter of reprimand, signed a letter admitting guilt, and was told to work out a two-week unpaid suspension with their shift lieutenant.
The latter point is inconsistent with what police officials previously said. Chief Rich St. John said that the two officers who had sex while on-duty were suspended two weeks and the officer who was off-duty was suspended one week.
– Reporting by Matt Hoffman
Additional reporting by Q2 News, MTN News, The Billings Gazette.
Below are the affidavits of the three officers and their motion for temporary restraint: