By JONAH LOSSIAH
ONE FEATHER STAFF
The Cherokee Police Commission, of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) began Wednesday’s (Jan. 27) meeting by first introducing Kym Parker as the newest member. Parker previously held a spot on the Commission and she was called in to fill in a vacancy.
The primary objective of this meeting was to discuss reports presented by the Cherokee Indian Police Dept. (CIPD), Alcohol Law Enforcement (ALE), and Tribal Prosecutors.
Josh Taylor, chief officer at Tribal ALE, was there to report for his program.
“Right now, the initial things that we’re working on is of course alcohol regulation in the casino. But that also goes into the tax and revenue side of it which we control and enforce,” said Taylor.
He said that that ALE is trying to support the other departments when possible..
“We’ve been really helping Cherokee Police Department here lately. I feel like the working relationship’s been really good. They’re a little short manned, so I’ve dedicated three of my officers. I know we’re not patrol officers; I know in our job description it doesn’t really say that, but we’ve dedicated three officers to rotate between here and Murphy to actually help with the patrol.
The number of law enforcement continued to be a theme in the meeting, as Taylor said the biggest issue they’re facing at the moment is the growth of the casino compared to the growth of the force. He described many of the challenges that has come with the increased traffic and illegal activity.
Taylor told the Commission a story about an individual who was in need of a shelter, but he realized there wasn’t a safe space like that in Cherokee. He said that given the population of Cherokee, the need has been a low priority. Taylor said he has been working with a program in Asheville to assist with issues such as these, but it is a growing problem.
A major topic of discussion among the Commission has been looking to get Cherokee’s law enforcement in a position to be more proactive instead of just reactive. Taylor said that he wants that too, but recently that simply hasn’t been possible.
“We can’t catch our breath long enough to even think five years down the road,” said Taylor. “We are being very reactive, there is no time to be proactive.”
Gene Owle, acting police chief of CIPD, was next to present. His focus was on improvement he would like to see in his department and what items he wished to bring forward in the next budget request. The biggest piece that he is hoping for is a new evidence building.
“We had this evidence building passed and the money was there. When we had the new administration change five years ago and that money went away,” said Owle.
“Our evidence right is just getting so overloaded and we’re running out of space to put stuff. You have to take into consideration that we have state courts that we have to store evidence for, Tribal court, Federal court, and then we’ve got BIA standards that we have to go by.”
He continued by saying that the lack of an evidence building in immediate proximity is a safety issue, with officers having to leave their current building to transport dangerous materials.
Owle also said that the have been reviewing camera systems that they hope to purchase soon. This includes license plate readers that would be placed around the boundary, but the most exciting piece is dash and body cams for all law enforcement officers.
The CIPD stills wishes to increase its employment numbers in each area of the department, but they did hire two new detectives. One is new to the force and the other was a Patrol Sergeant with CIPD.
Owle said that they would also like to look into getting a shooting range in Cherokee. The CIPD currently uses the range at Southwestern Community College, but he was told that range would be closing in the near future. He feels a range in Cherokee would assist with the adjudication process for Tribal officers, as well as offer a source of revenue for allowing other county departments or individuals to rent the facility.
The final visitors to the meeting were Cody White and Shelli Buckner from the Tribal Prosecutors office.
White opened by describing the new process in the COVID-adapted courtrooms. Now, the defendants are no longer in the courtroom. It is all done virtually, and the defendants are with their attorneys in the jail. Everybody can see each other on screens, and everyone has a microphone.
He also said that the Tribal Court and CIPD are transitioning to an electronic database. Eventually all departments will make this move and it will allow for the information and paperwork to be streamlined through the database, and they will be able to operate together.
This led back to discussion of body cameras and technology used by officers. The Prosecutor’s Office is a huge proponent of these implementations and believes that it will greatly assist in their work as well, particularly in cases involving drug overdoses and domestic violence.
The Commission also met with Human Resources for an update on the pension as well as salaries, though this discussion occurred during a closed session.
Commission Secretary Anita Lossiah provided an update on two grants that involve the Commission. She said that a sub-agreement for the Overdose Map grant has been finalized and approved. Also, the Coordinated Tribal Assistance Solicitation (CTAS) grant is ready to be reorganized and resubmitted with additional Tribal stakeholders.
The Jan. 27 meeting of the EBCI Police Commission was called to order at 12 p.m. with Chairperson Tooney Crowe; Secretary Anita Lossiah; and Commissioners Frank Dunn, Lisa Taylor, Buddy Johnson, and Kym Parker present. Commissioners Slick Saunooke and Frank Herron were absent for the meeting.
The next meeting of the Commission will take place Wednesday, Feb. 17 at noon.