By JONAH LOSSIAH
One Feather Staff
The Cherokee Police Commission held its last meeting on Thursday, July 15 and spent most of it discussing the drug issues on the Qualla Boundary.
The monthly audience lasted well over three hours and saw a number of guests offer ideas and reports. The first of these was former Principal Chief Michell Hicks, who is the president of Chief Strategy Group.
Chief Hicks wished to present several of his company’s projects to the Commission, as well as enter into dialogue on the drug issues on the Boundary. He pointedly asked the Commission, ‘what are we going to do?’
They discussed the expansion of the Analenesgi program, as well as a general lack of communication involved in many of the joint efforts across the Tribe. He said that it was a goal of his to increase this communication, as well as to have mass accountability for major projects.
Chief Hicks said that one of these major projects should be a location for ‘transitional housing’, or something to that effect. He said that there is a lack of resources for those that are coming out of jail or drug programs, and housing and safety should be a focus for the community to help with this problem.
Following Chief Hicks, the Police Commission moved into a closed session to discuss a personnel issue. Nothing was reported on this closed session, and no decisions were made following the opening of the meeting.
The next step in the drug conversation saw the Cherokee Indian Police Department enter with the full narcotics division. The Commission requested the full unit make an appearance for formal introductions. Following the CIPD report, the narcotics team had a closed session with the Commission.
Several of the officers described exactly how dire the drug issue was on the Boundary. Officer Jesse Ramirez was explaining the ‘street value’ of drugs in Cherokee. He demonstrated this by using an example of the price of a dosage of heroin.
“In Asheville, it goes for 20 dollars. In Cherokee, it’s going for 40, 50, 60 dollars. It’s inflated here. Drug values are inflated here compared to other urban environments around. I think it’s mainly because of the cash-on-hand that is available for per caps, per cap loans. People using drugs here have a lot more money on hand at certain times of the month and at certain times of the year than anybody else in the region.”
This was not the only instance in the meeting where per capita payments were tied to a major community issue. Shane Davis, head of EBCI Animal Control, said in his report that the number of animals retrieved always spikes around per capita payments. He said that many families will use the financial boost to get new pets, often leaving older furry family members without a place to survive. This semi-annual vicious cycle leads to Davis picking up these dogs and cats, often ending in euthanasia.
Davis reported that his department responded to 495 calls between June 11 and July 9. He also reported that his unit had euthanized 58 dogs and 44 cats in that same time frame. When asked if those numbers were higher than usual, Davis said that they were actually ‘lower than usual’.
“A lot of times somebody will have an old dog, it’ll be 12 years old. ‘I don’t want it to die at my house, I’m going to take it to them and let it die and let them deal with it,’” explained Davis.
“Or, ‘we just don’t want these dogs anymore’. Usually, our numbers go up with per cap. Because ‘we’re gonna dump these dogs and buy new dogs’. It’s not a happy scene. And it’s not about Animal Control, it’s not about what we put down. It’s the pet owners. The pet owners are to blame,” he said.
This conversation opened the floor to ideas on how to remedy the widespread animal issues in Cherokee. Davis said that he wished to increase their adoption services and reduce the euthanasia from their facilities. He said that Animal Control was looking to change their image in the community.
The Commission was keen to help Animal Control push for resources and funding to assist in the mission of increasing adoption and limiting irresponsible pet ownership on the Boundary.
Following Davis in the meeting was head of EBCI Natural Resource Enforcement (NRE) Rick Queen. He offered his report for his NRE officers. He also stated that he had been doing more foot patrols with his canines. He said that he was most often called to do foot patrols at the Harrah’s Cherokee Casino and the Food Lion parking lot.
Josh Taylor of Tribal Alcohol Law Enforcement (ALE) was the final report of the meeting. He focused on his staff, saying that many of them had trainings for the courtroom. He explained that it is a difficult step for many officers once they have to take the stand. He said that having them prepared for working with attorneys was an important facet of the job.
After spending well over two hours in open session, the Police Commission moved to a second closed session with the narcotics division for the remainder of the meeting. This closed session lasted at least another hour. Once again, no report was offered from this closed session.
The July 15 meeting of the EBCI Police Commission was called to order just after 12 p.m. with Chairperson Tunney Crowe; Secretary Anita Lossiah; and Commissioners Lisa Taylor, Kym Parker, Solomon Saunooke, Hillary Norville, and Frank Dunn all present. Buddy Johnson was absent from the meeting.
The Commission gathers monthly and has recently been meeting in the large conference room at the Ginger Lynn Welch complex. These sessions are open to the public. The August date for the Police Commission has not been set.