By JONAH LOSSIAH
One Feather Reporter
The Cherokee Police Commission held its November meeting in the conference room of the BIA offices on Thursday, Nov. 10.
The majority of the open session saw the Commission host a conversation with Mollie Grant, EBCI Public Safety director, and Chavella Bailey, EBCI Public Safety Communications Center program manager. In particular, Grant and Bailey wanted to address a communications issue that was originally brought to the Commission by Chairperson Tunney Crowe. Chairperson Crowe was not in attendance for this meeting.
“We have been reviewing the One Feather articles and noticed that there were several comments about the radio communications and at the casino and I guess in some areas on the reservation. We had an incident happen up there a couple weeks, a hazardous material incident. The fire department came back and told us that they could not communicate on the sixth floor. That they had to use their telephones to call down to other responding officers,” said Grant.
“I’ll preface this with I’ve been in the position for just over a year now. But when I came in, one of the topics that needed attention was communications at the casino,” said Bailey. “We established a casino operations channel as an interoperability channel with the casino staff. We had to put some equipment and infrastructure up on Cow Mountain. For those of you that aren’t familiar with it, it’s up on the hill behind the police department. We were able to fix the issues that were existing with the casino as it stood at that time. Since then, the completion of the convention center and the new tower has been finished, we’ve got bodies working in there. I don’t know what the discussions were when construction was ongoing.”
Bailey explained that the situation has to do with how and where the building was constructed.
“Since completion we’ve learned that comms inside of the hotel tower are pretty much nonexistent. I don’t know how familiar everyone is with the North Carolina building codes, but new code was established in January of 2022 that anything above 7,500 feet had to have the proper technology built into the structure. Again, this is all post me coming in to the position that I learned about these issues. I don’t know what has been built into the tower and the convention center. I’ve reached out to some of the folks at the casino and I’ve been pointed to a couple of different people. As soon as I get an answer then I’ll begin to partnership with them on how to continue to mitigate those issues.”
Bailey said that she is hoping to communicate and problem-solve with Harrah’s Cherokee, but she is already working on contingencies.
“For now, what I’ve done is I’ve ordered – there’s different types of antennas. What I’ve ordered is a directional antenna that will kind of boost the signal over to the tower as it stands now. That’s the least expensive way for us to correct any of those communication shortfalls. Those are on order.”
Grant also reported in the meeting that there have been considerable struggles with the newer mobile data information systems (MDIS) for emergency services.
“Office of Information Technology has informed me that the majority of those issues have been fixed. However, I’m not confident that there won’t be future problems just because of the way the install happened. At this point, I would’ve hoped that we were fully functional with MDIS and the mobile CADs, but that’s just not the case. What we have decided collectively as a team with OIT, Fire, EMS, and Police is that if these issues continue to be a problem then we’re going to have to search for a new vendor. Because we cannot waste money on buying this equipment and this software and it burns it out immediately.”
Before finishing with the Public Safety staff, Commissioner Kym Parker wanted some clarification on the Police Commission’s radio access. She was requesting that commissioners regain access to EMT and Fire Department calls in conjunction with their access to the Police Department radio frequencies.
“No, you cannot get the Fire and EMS. That’s because of the HIPAA violation. Because we encrypted them so that the EMS and Fire can give more information out. Like a patient’s name, patient’s address, and more of what they’re having to deal with,” responded Bailey.
Parker thought that was the point of the additional training that the commissioners had undergone.
“We’ve all been through HIPAA training. We all have our certificates and all that good stuff. I’m not really going to make a good argument here but sometimes our police officers have to constantly work with EMS and Fire Department. Just like you need to know what’s going on in your job, we need to know what’s going on too,” said Parker.
Mollie would not grant this access to the commissioners, citing the need for further qualifications.
“[Emergency service staff] are nationally certified in Fire, Police, and Medical. Those certifications dictate how we can operate because we are a 9-1-1 center. Only medical personnel or people who provide first aid services are privy to that information. Because of that, we should be able to share information over this disclosed network, but we can’t because we know that people that are not providing those services have access to the information. One of my items for action was to get a rein on who has access to our radios,” said Grant.
“Obviously, I’m not the person who makes the call when it comes to you having access to the police department’s information … but for Fire and EMS, I can’t justify that. You guys don’t provide medical services. Unless you’re an insurance carrier or healthcare provider.”
Earlier in the meeting, the Commission welcomed from Cherokee Central Schools Dr. Beverley Payne, assistant superintendent, and Brett Robertson, security network administrator. Payne and Robertson were excited to report that they had been meeting with leaders from the Cherokee Indian Police Department to discuss updating safety protocols at the school. They invited the Police Commission to begin attending their quarterly safety meetings at the school and to be more involved in developments at CCS. Payne and Robertson said that they are looking to take some steps in shooting protocol and ensuring the updated policies for the school’s student resource officers (SROs).
Once finished with the CCS representatives, the Police Commission moved into a closed session with Principal Chief Richard G. Sneed, who was only in attendance for this closed session. The session was to address an unspecified personnel issue.
The Thursday, Nov. 10 meeting of the EBCI Police Commission was called to order just after 12 p.m. with Vice Chairperson Buddy Johnson; Secretary Anita Lossiah; Commissioners Lisa Taylor, Kym Parker, Solomon Saunooke, Frank Dunn, and Hillary Norville; and Office of the Attorney General representative Chris Siewers present. Chairperson Tunney Crowe was absent for the meeting. Robert Jumper and Rob Saunooke were guests at the meeting.
The next meeting of the Police Commission is set for Thursday, Dec. 14 at noon. The Commission gathers monthly and has typically been meeting in the large conference room at the Ginger Lynn Welch Complex. These sessions are open to tribal members until the Commission moves into an executive session.