Council approves personnel powers for Chief of Police

by Mar 5, 2022NEWS ka-no-he-da0 comments



One Feather Staff


The Chief of Police of the Cherokee Indian Police Department (CIPD) now has more authority over personnel matters due to changes made to Cherokee Code Section 96-11.  Tribal Council passed Ordinance No. 144 (2022) during its regular session on Thursday, March 3 that amends language in the Code regarding officers and employees under the CIPD.

During discussion on the matter, Chief of Police Josh Taylor told Council, “Please know that this resolution is to help change the culture that we have at the Police Department, help motivation, dedication, and help me be successful for you guys. Seven months ago you asked me to fix the Police Department.”

Chief Taylor said that this fix would help address long-standing issues, “I’m not talking bad about anybody before me, but the Police Department is lacking in certain areas.”

The following language was added to Cherokee Code Section 96-11(c): “Notwithstanding any provision in this chapter, there shall be an exemption to the Tribe’s personnel policy where it concerns corrective actions for sworn officers and detention officers working within the Cherokee Indian Police Department’s law enforcement and detention programs. Any sworn officer or detention officer working for a law enforcement agency answering to the Chief of Police serves at the pleasure of the Chief of Police and any corrective action or disciplinary procedures, up to and including termination, shall be at the sole discretion of the Chief of Police. Nothing in this subsection excludes such officers from the protections afforded by the other sections of this Chapter 96.”

Chief Taylor related that he spoke to various police chiefs across the state, “They have the right to terminate at will. It’s not a power that can be abused. I will not abuse it.”

Chief Taylor explained that the process going forward will involve him giving the termination recommendation to a five-person internal affairs board who will return with their own recommendation. “At the end of the day, I would have the final say but I wouldn’t be making all the decisions on my own. That kind of keeps it fair across the board.”

He said he will not be petty with his decisions, “If people would do their job, they’re not going to be in trouble. The only thing I’m asking is come to work, grind, put some people in jail, help solve some cases, and go home.”

Chief Taylor said that he is happy with the improvements that are currently going on at CIPD. “We’re getting that pride and that swagger back about the Cherokee Indian Police Department that people are starting to want to come work here again.”

Wolftown Rep. Bill Taylor inquired, “Does this make a conflict with one program being at will and the rest of them having to follow the personnel policy?”

After that, EBCI Attorney General Michael McConnell answered, “It doesn’t create a conflict, it creates a difference. As Chief Taylor pointed out, I think that the very wise thing in here is the sunset date of Sept. 30, 2023.

He added, “The concern is ‘well, is Josh going to go rogue on us and do bad things’? He’s standing here before us all saying ‘no’. I don’t think he will. I trust him to go in the direction that Tribal Council and Executive want him to go.”

Painttown Rep. Dike Sneed, formerly a CIPD Chief of Police, made the motion to pass noting, “Everybody sitting in here knows that that’s what I’ve been preaching the whole time I’ve been on Council. We need to have this. I don’t like the sunset clause. I think it needs to go into effect. The state, the county, that’s how they operate. They say, ‘how can you do it with so few men?’ Those few men know that if they don’t do their job they go home. That’s the way it needs to be here.”

Chief Taylor further noted, “It’s nothing personal with anybody, but we have a status quo up there that has to be changed. If not, we’re not serving this community to the fullest.”

Big Cove Rep. Teresa McCoy said she would like to hear from the Police Commission and made the motion to table the legislation.

“I’m not ready to support this today. The reason being is because a lot of the people that have that at-will opportunity are sheriffs and they’re elected. If our Chief of Police position was elected, I would shut up and support it in a heartbeat. But I am concerned about that. I have an issue with at-will period, across the board.”

Yellowhill Rep. David Wolfe made a motion to do away with the sunset clause in the legislation.  “If this is the best practice, and it’s been practiced across the country, I’d like to remove that. If we keep it in place, I’d hate in 2023 to come back and take a step back. Why would we take a step back? We’re trying to move forward. We’re trying to protect our community the best we can.”

That section stated, “The exemption expressed in subsection (c) of this section shall expire on Sept. 30, 2023 unless extended by Tribal Council by amendment to this section.”

Rep. Wolfe’s amendment passed and the sunset class was removed from the legislation.  A vote was taken on the full legislation next, and it passed with nine votes.  Rep. McCoy and Cherokee Co. – Snowbird Reps. Adam Wachacha and Bucky Brown didn’t vote to pass – preferring to see the legislation tabled.