Police Commission addresses elk shootings and radio communications

by Oct 31, 2022NEWS ka-no-he-da0 comments


One Feather Reporter


SNOWBIRD – The Cherokee Police Commission met in Snowbird at the Jacob Cornsilk Complex for their Thursday, Oct. 20 meeting.

There were two guests to the meeting, the first being Natural Resource Enforcement (NRE) Sergeant Jonah Bird. He was there to discuss NRE issues, as well as to read the monthly report offered by the Cherokee Indian Police Department (CIPD). Bird provided the report in place of a CIPD representative.

The Cherokee Police Commission met in Snowbird at the Jacob Cornsilk Complex for their Thursday, Oct. 20 meeting. (JONAH LOSSIAH/One Feather photo)

Sgt. Bird said that the most stressful situation for NRE at the moment is being understaffed at the launch of hunting season.

“This week NRE starts off our state hunting season…it’s not so much the main Boundary and Cherokee where we have the issues but these surrounding counties where we have a lot of state property butting into the Boundary,” said Bird.

He said that this is not just an NRE problem, and that it’s a hectic time of year for everyone in the sector.

“Which is kind of hard for us. I was explaining to Commissioner Johnson earlier. It’s not just here, it’s state-wide also with North Carolina Wildlife. North Carolina Wildlife, in this area, only has three officers. That’s pretty much what we got for Haywood County, Cherokee, and here (Graham County). We just try to cover it the best we can.”

Commissioner Kym Parker asked Sgt. Bird about a rumor regarding the death of elk in the area. She asked if there had been any conclusion to the deaths and if anyone had been caught hunting or killing elk. Bird confirmed that they had found dead elk that had suffer gun shot wounds.

“We know what killed them. We know how they were killed, but who did it? It’s a different story. As of this count, we’ve had eight killed down there. They usually just shoot them, and they’ll run off and expire somewhere.”

The other guest to the meeting was Senior Tribal Prosecutor Shelli Buckner. She provided her report and described some of the trends over the last month.

“There were fewer convictions than last month, however, there were also fewer court dates. What we have seen is an increase in convictions related to probation violations and the activation of sentences associated with those probation violations. I actually sent an email yesterday evening praising our probation (program). I just think it’s so critically important that we have a message that we’re going to hold people accountable post-sentencing. Probation needs to mean something, and I think it does now. I think it’s important that we keep that division of law enforcement very well-staffed and motivated to keep doing what they’re doing,” said Buckner.

The Commission heard reports from Chairperson Tunney Crowe, Vice Chair Buddy Johnson, and Secretary Anita Lossiah, who had all made a trip to the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) annual conference that was hosted in Dallas, Texas. Crowe said that he highly suggested the other commissioners attend next year in San Diego, Calif. He reported that there were 16,000 attendees and over 130 countries represented at the conference.

“There’s a lot. Comparison of things is going to be a lot too. We’re not far behind. But there’s some cutting-edge stuff that could get us ahead,” said Vice Chairperson Johnson.

“There are a lot of things that seem like we have the ability to do, but we just need to connect the dots to actually implement things,” said Secretary Lossiah.

One of the last issues discussed in the meeting was brought to the table by Crowe. He was focused on highlighting what he considers a major issue with communication at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort.

“The radios, there’s issues with the dispatches. There are issues in the casino, there’s dead spots in there where they can’t even talk on the radio,” said Chairperson Crowe.

“If you look at it, what if something happens in there? We’re not going to have any communication in there because the radios can’t come out. There are things happening up there every day. We’ve had suicides up there here recently at the casino. It was out in the parking garage, so they could pick it up on the radio. But if something like that was happening inside? What if we had a live shooter in there? There are a lot of what-ifs that could happen that haven’t happened, and I hope that it doesn’t. But I hope that we have full coverage if something does.”

Crowe said that he was looking to meet with the TCGE board, CIPD, and others to discuss and hopefully resolve this issue as soon as possible.

The Police Commission went into a closed session to discuss personnel issues surrounding one of the commissioners. At this time, no actions have been taken towards the structure the Commission.

The CIPD Sept. monthly report offered the following information:

  • Calls for Service – 1,616
  • Arrests – 83
  • Citations – 130
  • Drug Arrests – 14
    • Federal Cases – 0
    • Tribal Cases – 11
    • State Cases – 3
    • Cash Seized – $0
    • Firearms Seized – 1
    • Fatal Overdoses – 0
    • Nonfatal Overdoses – 5
  • Drugs Seized – Street Value
    • 4.9g Processed Marijuana – $98
    • 1.3g Cocaine – $78
    • 18.5g Crystal Meth – $820
    • 22 Other Drug (Prescription) – $110
    • Other Schedule I – $13
  • Total Street Value of Drugs Seized in FY22 – $536,956.20

The Thursday, Oct. 20 meeting of the Cherokee Police Commission was called to order at the Jacob Cornsilk Complex with Chairperson Tunney Crowe; Vice Chairperson Buddy Johnson; Secretary Anita Lossiah; and Commissioners Lisa Taylor and Kym Parker present. Commissioners Frank Dunn, Solomon Saunooke, and Hillary Norville were absent from the meeting.

The next meeting of the Police Commission is set for Thursday, Nov. 10 at noon. The Commission gathers monthly and typically meets at the large conference room at the Ginger Lynn Welch Complex. These sessions are open to tribal members unless the Commission moves into an executive session.