By JONAH LOSSIAH
One Feather Reporter
CHEROKEE, N.C. – The Cherokee Police Commission met on Thursday, Jan. 19 to address items at the turn of the year and any ongoings issues involving the police department.
They began with public comments. Secretary Anita Lossiah said that they would be receiving a visitor to the meeting, a community member who was looking to file a complaint. There was no additional information given, but the Commission did entertain the complaint. They went into a closed session with the community member to discuss the issue.
Chairperson Tunney Crowe addressed the reported communication issues that were occurring at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort. The Commission had previously hosted Mollie Grant and Chavella Bailey from EBCI Emergency Management to discuss this situation.
“We had a meeting with the Casino, the TCGE board, and the communications people from the Tribe – Mollie Grant and Chavella Bailey. We had a meeting there on the property. The communications team from the Tribe came in and reported that they had everything under control – that they were ordering new equipment to make sure that the communication is good there in the Casino. We’re waiting to hear back from them,” said Crowe.
The next problem was presented by Vice Chairperson Buddy Johnson.
“One other comment. I was at the gym for the NASA (Native American Sports Association) tournaments up there at Big Y. We might need to think in the future of posting somebody, volunteer or otherwise, just to have a police presence there. They were having those elimination games and we had an incident with one of our local folks…we had to have escorted out. I think championship night at Birdtown, there were a couple of fights outside,” said Johnson.
Chairperson Crowe said that he had heard about the issue and had already contacted Cherokee Police Chief Carla Neadeau to make them aware of the situation.
The first report to the Police Commission came from Jonah Bird of EBCI Natural Resource Enforcement (NRE). He said that the season had been relatively slow and that the major concerns his department have been facing involve the elk.
“We’ve had to put down three that’s been hit by vehicles. The biggest thing is them coming around highways. We just want to ask the public but more cautious, especially around Yellowhill and Big Cove,” said Bird.
Buddy Johnson suggested that it could be beneficial to implement more signs in the problem areas, especially along Acquoni Rd. and Big Cove Rd. Officer Bird said that it would have to be a collaborative effort with other departments, but that he agreed. He specifically said that there were incidents on both those roads.
He said the other significant issue regarding this was the elk that was illegally shot in December.
“An update on the investigation on the elk that got shot with a crossbow. It is confirmed that it was a crossbow. We do have a name on it, and we’re following up on it. But we can’t divulge too much information because it’s still ongoing. We’ll hopefully have that tied up in the next couple of weeks. We’ve had to reach out to some outside agencies to give us a hand on it. I can tell you one thing, it’s not a local,” said Bird.
Next to speak was Cody White to present for the Office of the Tribal Prosecutor. He offered a rundown of their monthly report, and highlighted one piece in particular. He said that starting on Oct. 1, 2022, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2022 was enacted. This amended some jurisdictional issues that directly affected the Qualla Boundary.
“We now have had two convictions under VAWA 2022, one of which is a felony conviction that occurred earlier this week. So, two individuals that we have never had jurisdiction over before we’ve been able to charge and convict,” said White.
Before finishing his report, White formally announced that he would be stepping into a new position.
“I have taken a demotion from being the lead tribal prosecutor to being the attorney of the police department…my primary assignment will be to advise the Cherokee Indian Police Department. I also have various other responsibilities for the Attorney General’s office. It was by my choice to do that. I have a second child that was born recently, and it’s been almost seven-and-a-half years, and I just need a little more time mentally and physically with my family,” said White.
This leaves Shelli Buckner as the lone prosecutor for now. White said that he would be staying on board and assisting the office until another position was filled. This means that there now two open prosecutor positions in the office, and soon there will also be a victim advocate position open as well.
The final report came from Cherokee Chief of Police Carla Neadeau. Her main topic of discussion was vacancies at the department. She mentioned that she is unable to advertise all of these positions, but is hopeful to keep pushing for more officers. According to the report there are 15 patrol vacancies, 12 under the corrections department, and three for NRE.
She said that they are looking at different options to incentivize potential recruits, and that she is working at increases to pay and amenities. Chief Neadeau mentioned that reimplementing state retirement has helped some and that she is confident that moves will be made soon to boost the CIPD.
The Thursday, Jan. 19 meeting of the Cherokee Police Commission was called to order just after 12 p.m. with Chairperson Tunney Crowe; Vice Chair Buddy Johnson; and Commissioners Lisa Taylor, Kym Parker, Solomon Saunooke, and Frank Dunn present. Secretary Anita Lossiah and Hillary Norville attended the meeting virtually.
The next meeting of the Police Commission is set for Thursday, Feb. 9 at noon. Due to the flooding of the Ginger Lynn Welch Complex, the Commission is meeting in the training room of at the Anthony Edward Lossiah Justice Center. These sessions are open to tribal members until the Commission moves into an executive session.