By JONAH LOSSIAH
One Feather Staff
For the last several months, the reorganized Cherokee Police Commission has been requesting more consistent information from the entities they oversee. This was again the primary topic of discussion on Thursday, April 22.
The Commission discussed questions and concerns for the first 40 minutes of the meeting before bringing in the first guests to present.
Frank Dunn had a list of questions that he wished to have answered by the Cherokee Indian Police Department (CIPD). He was concerned that he had not seen much of anything in terms of CIPD financials. Dunn said he had been collecting many of these questions from the community.
Another problem that was discussed in-length were the complaints reported to the Police Department.
“Complaints, we need to see those so that we know that they’re dealing with them. There’s been complaints made, and we haven’t received a copy of them from the PD like we should have. I don’t know why,” said Chairperson Gene “Tunney” Crowe.
The transparency was one issue, and Buddy Johnson said the process of filing a complaint was another. He said that the current complaint form is too much of a filter for those that might want to fill out a complaint. Johnson brought out an example of a CIPD complaint form, demonstrating how complicated and intimidating it was for someone outside of the department.
Kym Parker suggested that the Police Commission work together to draft a new form for the CIPD and send it there way for use.
The first guest of the afternoon was Zach Stutts of Tribal EMS. He was there to discuss the department’s experience working with the Overdose Map technology they implemented in 2019, as well as a new grant that is allowing them to extend this work.
“It serves as a software that allows us to enter in all the overdoses that we respond to. So, EMS has been housing that and entering that data. We went in and we backdated all of our data from our patient care reports back until 2017,” said Stutts.
“It’s pretty neat. It lets us take the information from our patient care reports and put it into a database that has no patient information in it whatsoever. It’s been approved by the Attorney General’s office, both here and Nationally. Every state there is. There’s no HIPAA violations.”
Buddy Johnson was excited by what he saw, and he moved to have the OD map report offered to the Police Commission monthly. This motion was passed unanimously.
The next guests were the CIPD, who provided the monthly report from the department.
Alica Wildcatt, public information officer for the CIPD, said they have finished their five-year strategic plan. She said that the main thing she is being tasked with is to create public outreach programs. The hope is to get the Police Chief or an officer at every community club meeting, as well as other local meetings for public engagement.
Chairperson Crowe requested copies of this five-year plan, stating that any major policy changes need to come through the Commission. He said he was not made aware of this plan.
Gene Owl, interim police chief, said there are other ways that the department is looking to increase accessibility to the public.
“The people that have our record management system, they have a new program on there that’s called Citizen Connect. It would be real easy for them to set up for us, and that way citizens could get on that website and they’re able to pull their accident reports and they could even file a report on that system. That’s just something I’m looking at right now,” said Owl.
The police department also announced that as the Tribe continues to ease COVID-19 protocols, the police department would be resuming detention center video visitation. Times for visitation are between 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Inmates will be visited on particular days by last name, as follows:
- A-F Monday
- G-K Tuesday
- L-P Wednesday
- Q-U Thursday
- V-Z Friday
There was also discussion on the camera systems for the CIPD. Interim Chief Owl said that things are looking good with their hopes to implement Getac systems across the department. This move would include body cams for all officers, and two car cameras in each vehicle.
The Commission also asked about the surveillance cameras across the Boundary, and Owl confirmed that they are still active, though there has been discussion about shifting where they are situated.
Cody White made an appearance representing the Tribal prosecutor’s office. He addressed concerns with dismissal of charges, stating that the conviction rate is higher than it may seem. White stated that often there are significantly more charges than they can pursue in a case, and this is something that they have discussed with officers. He said that the conviction rate per incident is better than what some understand.
The final guest was Josh Taylor, who gave a report on his ALE staff. He also spoke at length in support of White and the prosecutor’s office. He also spoke about body cams, as his staff were being equipped with a different system, Axon, bought separately from the CIPD’s planned purchase.
The April 22 meeting of the EBCI Police Commission was called to order at 12 p.m. with Chairperson Tooney Crowe; Vice Chair Buddy Johnson; Secretary Anita Lossiah; and Commissioners Frank Dunn, Frank Herron, Lisa Taylor, and Kym Parker all present. Solomon Saunooke was excused from this meeting due to a family emergency.
The next meeting for the EBCI Police Commission is set for Thursday, May 13 at 12 p.m.