By ROBERT JUMPER
One Feather Editor
CHEROKEE, N.C. – The Cherokee Police Commission of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) met on Thursday, Sept. 14 in the Ginger Lynn Welch Large Conference Room for their monthly meeting.
Chairman Crowe called the meeting to order, and Secretary Lossiah acknowledged that their quorum requirement of five commissioners had been met. Board members attending were Chairman Gene Tunney Crowe (Birdtown), Secretary Anita Lossiah (At-Large), Hillary Norville (Snowbird/Cherokee County), Frank Dunn (Wolftown), Lisa Taylor (Painttown), Kym Parker (Yellowhill). Vice Chairman Joseph Buddy Johnson (Big Cove) had an excused absence. There is one vacant “At-Large” seat. The Commission unanimously approved the agenda for the meeting and the minutes from last month’s meeting. There were sign-ups for no public comment or community dialogue.
Shelli Buckner, EBCI senior tribal prosecutor; Cody White, EBCI associate attorney general assigned to the Cherokee Indian Police Dept. (CIPD); Chris Siewers, EBCI Attorney General’s Office; Holly Kays, Smoky Mountain News; and Robert Jumper, Cherokee One Feather; were guests in attendance.
Secretary Lossiah reported that a scheduled presentation from Bonnie Claxton regarding a Tribal Health Improvement Plan (THIP) team update on addressing community violence and abuse was postponed due to Claxton being unavailable.
An Executive Dashboard presentation was given with established data points. Sheena Meader, who works for Beraten Software as a project manager and in-house counsel, shared an application that included access to the “Tribal-X” database that will allow the Police Commission to review data and provide a discussion facilitator for the commission. The app allows for a portal for in-person or remote meeting attendance and discussion. Reports can be loaded in from all the tribal police organizations. The dashboard could display historical and comparative data.
Beraten Software’s website states that they are “experts in delivering user-friendly, web-based solutions tailored to the needs of Indian tribes.” Meader previously worked as an associate attorney general at EBCI from July 2014 to November 2016, according to her online resume.
Cherokee Animal Control stats had been requested by Vice Chief Alan B. Ensley at a previous meeting. Commission Secretary Lossiah asked White to follow up on getting the statistics. He said would work with the CIPD to ensure that the statistics were made available to the Vice Chief.
The Commission had a brief discussion on the merits and challenges of creating an “animal clinic” on the Qualla Boundary. Comments on the extra workforce that would be required to impact on existing agreements with outside agencies to provide rabies vaccines were delivered. No votes or decisions were made as additional information was needed by the Commission to proceed.
Chairman Crowe read highlights from a Natural Resources Enforcement (NRE) report in which 68 citations were issued. Commission Secretary Lossiah was asked by Chairman Crowe to email NRE the full report later. Additional information from the report included 71 charges, including 61 fishing/hunting violations, eight traffic violations, and two other violations. Their report covered two months, July 1 to Aug. 31, 2023. In addition to routine patrols of streams and backwoods areas, NRE also provided assistance to the CIPD, Cherokee Animal Control, Cherokee Fire Department, and EBCI Emergency Medical Services as needed.
White stated that the government would be issuing an official statement concerning the cannabis referendum vote. Chairman Crowe expressed concerns about an increase in the crime rate due to the influx of people who might be coming for cannabis. White said that the federal stance seems to be that tribes will be treated like a state regarding the regulation of cannabis and could be somewhat tolerant if tribes contain cannabis to their respective boundaries. The state of North Carolina is still weighing the pros and cons of cannabis and has yet to enact legalization legislation. Commissioner Parker concurred with Chairman Crowe on the concern of an increased homeless population with the potential expansion of cannabis on the Boundary. Siewers concurred with White’s statement that the referendum vote on cannabis was more of a survey question. Siewers offered to help the Commission create a position statement on the cannabis issue.
There was no report from ALE or CIPD at this meeting.
Buckner shared a “September Report to Police Commission”. She commented that “five convictions were made possible based on the Tribe’s exercise of jurisdiction of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Office of the Tribal Prosecutor obtained convictions in connection with fifty incidents of crime and three probation violations.”
The period reported was from Aug. 1-31. In her report, Buckner acknowledged 28 CIPD and ALE officers and two private citizens who “were responsible for the charges resulting in the convictions and probation violations.”
It was noted that a presentation for discussion on elder abuse legislation is scheduled for the next meeting. Siewers and Buckner are discussing the legislation and plan to make a presentation to the Commission next session.
In the Commission’s unfinished business was a discussion of the current operational status of the Commissioners’ tablets continued from last month’s meeting. They are working with the Tribal Office of Information Technology to get all tablets in working order.
In the “open discussion” portion of the meeting, the Commission reviewed “human trafficking – mandated awareness signs w/examples.” It was a status discussion and the Commission expressed support for the signage with submitting legislation being one possible route suggested for getting funding and language for the signage.
Another discussion item was the Commission’s request for a “calendar” of CIPD events so that they might be able to better participate. White was asked to follow up on this calendar.
The Commission then voted to adjourn and held a working session. The nature of the working session was unspecified and not open to the public. Dates for the next Police Commission meetings are Oct. 12, Nov. 9, and Dec. 14 for the remainder of 2023.