Friday rollin’: A night in the life of a Lewistown Police Officer

By: 
Charlie Denison
Reporter

Lewistown Police Officer Tom Tighe patrols the neighborhoods Friday night. There was a little activity early in the evening, but all in all it was a quiet night. Teague likes that about Lewistown.

Photo by Charlie Denison

A quiet night. No one out running around. Hardly any traffic. A few people out in front of the bars on Main Street. Little activity.

That’s Friday night for Lewistown Police Officer Tom Tighe, and that’s all right with him.

A Boston, Massachusetts native whose last law enforcement job was policing Sidney, Montana during the oil boom, Tighe likes the quaint, small-town atmosphere Lewistown presents, even if it makes some of his nights longer.

Having seen more than his fair share of action through the years, he enjoys being in an environment where crime isn’t as high.

“The call volume is low here in comparison to Sidney, especially the number of violent crimes,” Tighe said. “There was an uptick this summer, but things have leveled out. That’s usually how it goes headed into the fall and winter.”

However, anything can happen on any given night, and Tighe is ready, come what may.

Usually that means traffic infractions.

“We have stops due to busted headlights or taillights,” Tighe said. “Sometimes we’ll have people driving through red lights. That is a pet peeve of mine, but my biggest pet peeve is when people fail to renew their insurance or insure their vehicles at all.”

There are, of course, DUIs and drug-related offenses that occur in town, especially arrests involving methamphetamine or prescription drugs. There were no such calls on Friday, but they do have a tendency to happen, and it’s often familiar faces.

“I’d say 95 percent of our drug-related arrests come from the same five percent of our population,” Tighe said. “We see a lot of repeat offenders.”

Although there are plenty of repeat offenders, Tighe said the job is far from predictable, and that’s one thing he loves about it.

 “I like that each call is different and I like being able to get out of the office,” he said, “but, most of all, I like having the opportunity to help people.”

Tighe said he also likes working at this particular department with this particular ground of officer.

“The LPD is organized and we have a lot of camaraderie,” Tighe said. “I’m glad to be a part of this group.”

 Having worked here two and a half years, Tighe said he sees himself staying here indefinitely. His wife, Bridget, and children also very much enjoy the area.

“We’re here for the long haul,” he said.

 

Good behavior

Driving past what many in Lewistown call the “Barmuda Triangle” (the intersection of Main Street and Second Avenue, by the Tavern, the Glacier and the Eagles), Tighe said fights are few and far between.

“I’d say, for the most part, people here are pretty tame,” he said. “They behave themselves.”

That wasn’t the case in Sidney, Tighe added, saying there were brawls at the bars regularly. He was ready for a change when the job in Lewistown opened up, and Lewistown was exactly the kind of change he was wanting.

“My wife and I had visited Lewistown before and loved it,” he said. “It’s the kind of town we saw ourselves living in.”

The town has a similar pace to Ennis, where Tighe worked as the lone member of the police force for five years.

That was a challenging job, as well. In June of 2003, Tighe received a call to go investigate a scene where seven people were shot – one fatally – outside the Silver Dollar Bar on Main Street.

“When I got there, all the bodies were laid out,” Tighe said. “I’d never seen anything like it. It was unreal.”

Anything can happen on any given night, but, so far, Lewistown has not been worrisome. There haven’t been major tragedies. There are drugs, yes, there are crimes, and there is suicide, but “no more than anyplace else,” Tighe said.

On Friday, there was little activity of any kind, as only one call came in for an elderly woman who fell, but she did not sustain an injury and did not need assistance.

“Some nights are like this,” he said.

 

Respect in return

Despite unfavorable press for law enforcement around the country as a result of increasingly tense race relations and heated protests, Tighe said he’s felt supported by the community of Lewistown and feels his job is appreciated.

“I treat everyone with respect and I ask the same in return,” he said.

There are, however, “pockets of people” that are not excited to see police officers, Tighe said, or look at police unfavorably. Sometimes, Tighe said, this is solely based on misunderstanding.

“We can’t solve everyone’s problems,” Tighe said. “Our job is criminal law. Sometimes we are called for civil matters, but that’s not our place.”

There are also stereotypes about police officers Tighe could do without, such as “cops love donuts.”

“I prefer bagels,” he said.

Nevertheless, when it comes down to it, Tighe said he loves being a police officer, a job he’s wanted since he was a child.

“I’ve always wanted to be a cop,” he said. “My grandfather, Thomas, was a cop in Meriden, Connecticut. He passed before I got to know him, but I enjoyed hearing stories about him. I think my interest started there.”

A former member of the U.S. Air Force, Tighe first came to Montana when he was stationed at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Great Falls. It was then he fell in love with Big Sky Country. Not long after Malmstrom, he took a job working at a prison in Shelby. That’s where he met his wife.

“She was working there, also,” he said. “We have fun telling people we met in prison.”

Work brought the two to Colorado briefly, but it was their full intention to return to the Treasure State, and, fortunately, the opportunity presented itself.

Now, in Lewistown, they couldn’t be happier, and Tighe said he looks forward to continuing to keep the people of Lewistown safe.

“My time here has been very enjoyable,” Tighe said. “It’s an honor to serve the people of this community.”

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