By JONAH LOSSIAH
ONE FEATHER STAFF
The EBCI Police Commission came to Tribal Council on Thursday, Aug. 6 to reestablish themselves as an asset to the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.
Ord. No. 208 (2020) was unanimously passed by Council and did just that, offering a boost to the authority of the Police Commission.
A mistake on the agenda meant that the Commission’s resolution was not scheduled, but the Commission drafted a letter to Council that requested the resolution be added. The letter was read and approved at the beginning of Thursday’s session.
Ord. 208 states the following, “The purpose of the Commission is to provide performance and regulatory oversight to all Tribal law enforcement agencies and to act as the liaison between the community, law enforcement, and the Executive and Legislative branches of Tribal Government providing transparency and advocacy to issues influencing crime and justice on Tribal trust lands.”
Gene Crowe Jr., chairman of the Police Commission, presented the ordinance to Council. He said that the measures drawn up were done so to offer consistency to policy across the Tribe’s law enforcement agencies. Crowe said that although authority had previously been granted to the Commission, the restatement and additions in this ordinance would give the Commission the opportunity to conduct business the way it was initially designed.
Crowe says there is a lot that the Commission wishes to review, but one of the immediate policy changes will be to clean up the HR polices for Cherokee Indian Police Department (CIPD) officers.
Currently, CIPD has a separate HR policy for their officers despite the fact that they are still considered tribal employees. Crowe says the Police Commission is working hand-in-hand with Tribal HR to find the best way to merge the CIPD policy under the tribal umbrella. He said that if officers are considered tribal employees, they need to be treated like tribal employees.
Yellow Rep. Tom Wahnetah said that it would be important for the Commission to consult with the officers and the individuals in all of the entities they will be overseeing. This is something Crowe agreed with, and it was also part of what the Commission discussed in their monthly meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 5. They have plans to host an anonymous survey in the departments to try and gather as much information as possible and to see where they can help improve each system.
Crowe spoke adamantly that the Commission is there to serve law enforcement and the community, and this ordinance is being used to help everyone involved.
He also said that this ordinance has been created in collaboration with the Attorney General’s office to ensure the policies have been drawn up responsibly.
Attorney General Michael McConnell said that he approved the language and that it had been reviewed by multiple people in his office. He pointed to Commission Secretary Anita Lossiah as the person who was the driving force behind getting the reviews done in a timely manner.
Vice Chief Alan B. Ensley also offered his support for this resolution. He said that it looked ready to go, and that it was good step to get the Police Commission the authority they deserve.