Police Commission discusses major drug bust and CIPD staffing

by Jun 9, 2023NEWS ka-no-he-da0 comments


One Feather Reporter


CHEROKEE, N.C. – The Cherokee Police Commission conducted their monthly meeting on Thursday, June 8.

The open session of the meeting primarily addressed reports to the Commission, including reports from CIPD (Cherokee Indian Police Dept.), NRE (Natural Resources Enforcement), ALE (Alcohol Law Enforcement), Animal Control, and the Office of the Tribal Prosecutor.

Assist. Chief of Police Josh Taylor was present to provide the CIPD report, ALE report, and to field questions from the Commission. He began by discussing the collaborative drug operation that was held in Cherokee the week of per capita and GenWell distribution, from May 30 through June 2.

According to a release provided by CIPD, this effort involved 17 law enforcement agencies and 115 officers. Taylor said that they met each morning to debrief and talk amongst each other before being dispatched to the different entry points of the Qualla Boundary and areas of concern. The CIPD reported that the joint effort seized a combined street value of $200,238.45 in drugs. The operation also saw 98 arrests, 193 citations, and the seizure of $4,600 in cash.

Taylor wanted to highlight each of the agencies involved in the operation and complimented the leadership on getting this mission off the ground. He said that when these many agencies come together, it often doesn’t ever get to the objective. He said that he was very proud of every officer involved and said the operation was a great success.

“That just shows right there, if we could get full manpower with more people, imagine how much more dope we could find,” said Taylor to the Commission.

The CIPD monthly report states that there are currently 32 vacant positions across the department. When asked about the current vacancies across the CIPD, Taylor said that they are doing everything they can to assist in hiring efforts and make positions more accommodating. He said that they do have several open positions, and that has led to many officers being overworked.

Before Taylor went into significant detail on the specific needs of the force, Commission Chairperson Tunney Crowe argued that specific staffing information should be considered confidential.

“I wouldn’t put that in there, notifying the public that we’re short-staffed. You know what I mean? We know that we’re short-staffed, but I don’t think we need to advertise that to the public. The criminals are saying, ‘well, these guys only have two or three policemen on a shift. Right now, we could come in there and do whatever we want to’ … I don’t want the public to think it’s not a safe place,” said Crowe.

The staffing issue was also raised by Jonah Bird, the reporting NRE officer. He showed that the NRE, which currently staffs three officers, had booked 56 citations in the last month. Bird and Taylor said that it has been ‘all hands-on deck’ and that each individual part of department has pooled its resources to support each other. Bird said that they would preferably have seven officers, which matches the four vacancies listed. Taylor chimed in and said ‘ideally’ that number would look more like 10, but that is unrealistic at this time.

Animal Control also reported to the Commission. Officer Shane Davis shared that since October his department had brought in 989 dogs, 140 cats, two turtles, a pig, two bears, and $5,305 in fines. Commissioner Frank Dunn asked that of the dogs brought in, how many were put down?

Davis said that he did not have that number with him.

“You’ve got to think that part of those coming in are ones that people picked up after paying their fines and getting them back. So, a large majority of those are ones that were picked up. Or we’re trying to work with somebody and say ‘keep your dog put up or we’ll fine you’ … we also try to work with the public that way. So, that number kind of goes both ways. We’re not putting down 989 dogs,” said Davis.

Davis said that they are doing what they can to avoid putting down animals and are pushing for a ‘kinder and gentler’ approach with the community to encourage people to take better care of their animals and to avoid animal deaths.

Davis finished by saying that Animal Control would be hosting a low-cost spay and neuter clinic for enrolled members from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, this week June 9 and 10.

Commissioner Kym Parker asked about the potential of doing rabies tags through Animal Control. Davis said that he is qualified to do that work, but they have not been supplied with the machine to make it happen, and that they would need to work with the state to formalize the service. The Commission was keen to help make this happen, and they said they would work with Davis to set up some meetings to see if that could be feasibly implemented.

The final guest to the meeting was Cody White, attorney with the CIPD. He is still assisting the Office of the Tribal Prosecutor and provided its report. The report showed that there had been convictions on 39 incidents and six probation violations in May. White also said that the prosecutors and the Court are looking at the Commission’s request to seek a mandatory hold for individuals arrested on elder abuse charges, similar to 72-hour hold used in domestic violence cases. Nothing is confirmed yet, but they are looking at the possibility of implementing that while they are reviewing and rewriting other pieces of law.

The CIPD reported the following numbers from May:

  • Call for service – 1,639
  • Arrests – 60
  • Accidents – 11
  • Citations – 138
  • Drug cases opened – 28
  • Drug arrests – 27
  • Number of persons confined in on the last weekday of the month – 57

Snowbird statistics:

  • Call for service – 221
  • Calls to Valley River Casino – 11

Alcohol Law Enforcement reported that they responded to 134 calls for service in May.

The Police Commission then called an executive (closed) session to discuss CIPD details with Assistant Chief of Police Josh Taylor. The Cherokee One Feather was told that no further business would be conducted in open session for this meeting.

The Thursday, June 8 meeting of the EBCI Police Commission was called to order at 12 p.m. with Chairperson Tunney Crowe; Commissioners Anita Lossiah, Lisa Taylor, Kym Parker, Frank Dunn and Hillary Norville present. Commissioners Buddy Johnson and Solomon Saunooke were excused absences.

The next meeting of the Cherokee Police Commission is set for Thursday, July 20 at noon. The Commission assembles monthly in the Ginger Lynn Welch Complex large conference room. These sessions are open to tribal members until the Commission moves into an executive session.