By JONAH LOSSIAH
One Feather Staff
The EBCI Police Commission held its first formal meeting with new police chief Josh Taylor on Thursday, Aug. 12. The meeting lasted four hours and saw some frustrated exchanges throughout.
Taylor, who was announced as the chief of the Cherokee Indian Police Dept. (CIPD) on July 30, spent most of his time with the Commission in a closed session. He first entered with general discussion about his first couple weeks on the job. Once it was time for the CIPD report, however, the Commission moved into a closed session for well over an hour.
Taylor left following the opening of the meeting, and the Commission continued to discuss how they wanted to handle the CIPD. They received an amended version of the ordinance that defines the duties of the Police Commission. Among those amendments were several changes to supervisory responsibilities for the Commission, and these moves were not appreciated by several people in the room.
“This has been a battle from the get-go. Ever since the first ordinance, the placeholder, was put in. I’m personally going to be a hard sell on any changes. We have fought long and hard since the inception of the Police Commission to get where we’re at. To get what little authority that we had. And it sickens me that we opened the door to let them do this to us. I’m not going to be for any kind of change. Why can’t we leave it as is? We finally have a Chief of Police, this commission as a whole hasn’t had a chance to work with him,” said Kym Parker.
“I think we got blindsided. We were told we’re putting an ordinance in for a placeholder and then all of sudden all of our authority is getting taken away from us. That’s not right,” said Parker.
Chairperson Tunney Crowe said that he will be pushing to get a work session set up with Tribal Council to discuss these changes and get the voices of the Commission on record.
The ordinance wasn’t the only issue that was brought up between the Commission and the CIPD. Frank Dunn has been pushing to get a full breakdown of the department’s financials since he was brought in.
“This Police Commission, we keep coming back to the words power, authority, oversight. At the end of the day, I feel the oversight is the Police Commission needs the ability to lead so that we can strategically plan short-term, long-term and be able to come back and implement to Josh Taylor, the Police Chief, and all these different entities. But unless we have something with power, that gives us some sense of power so that when they’re there, we can say ‘I’d like to see the financials.’ I’m going on here for 16 to 18 months, I’ve yet to get the financials,” said Dunn.
The Commission also invited EBCI Attorney General Michael McConnell to the meeting to discuss policy and the future handling of the ordinance. Chris Sewiers of the Attorney General’s office has been assigned to work with the Commission on a consistent basis.
Another guest to the meeting was Rick Queen of EBCI Natural Resources Enforcement. He gave a rundown on his officers and their numbers, but also stated his case for a need of increased staffing.
“We need these positions. I need these officers. I can document the need by giving you my timesheet. I put in excess of 120 hours a pay period. I’m salary, I only get paid for 80. But there’s a reason I have that many hours. It’s not because I just want to be on the timeclock. I do have a life at home, but I do the job here and what needs to be done. Because I care about the people, and they need to be able to see me out there,”
The first guests to the meeting were Cody White and Shelli Buckner from the Tribal Prosecutors office. They presented their annual report to the Commission and explained their perspective on the prosecution rates on the Boundary. Chairperson Crowe said that prosecutors had the support of the Commission, and they want to help apply context to their work in the community.
“We got to work with the Prosecutors’ office, the AGs office, to set up a work session with Tribal Council to explain how we get these dismissals in the paper. How do we get these plea bargains in there so people can understand. Because perception, when I look at it I’m thinking, ‘damn, they’re letting everybody go.’ But that’s not the case. But that’s what the public sees and that’s what the public believes,” said Chairperson Crowe.
“We’ve got to educate with Cody [White] and Shelli [Buckner] with Tribal Council to explain with them how this works. Because they’re getting bashed from Council. They’re getting bashed from the community. ‘Well, they’re letting everybody go.’ We need to change that perception,” said Crowe.
The Thursday, Aug. 12 meeting of the EBCI Police Commission was called to order just after 12 p.m. with Chairperson Tunney Crowe; Vice Chair Buddy Johnson; Secretary Anita Lossiah; and Commissioners Lisa Taylor, Kym Parker, Solomon Saunooke, Hillary Norville, and Frank Dunn all present.
The next meeting of the Commission is set for Thursday, Sept. 16 at noon. 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.