Published On: Mon, Jun 21st, 2021

Cherokee Police Commission discusses overdoses and body cams

 

By JONAH LOSSIAH

One Feather Staff

 

The Cherokee Police Commission began their Thursday, June 10 meeting by introducing new commissioner Hillary Norville.

Norville is from Snowbird and is a tribal employee who works for the Tribal Employee Rights Office. She received her bachelor’s degree in strategic communications from High Point University, a master’s degree from the Wake Forest School of Law, and a paralegal certificate from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

She replaces Frank Herron, who was honored at the meeting for his service on the Commission.

The majority of the meeting was spent speaking with the Cherokee Indian Police Department (CIPD) on their monthly report. The May meeting of the Police Commission was cancelled, so the CIPD offered reports from both April and May.

Drugs seized was a major part of this meeting. The CIPD report states that all the departments combined have seized drugs with a total ‘street value’ of $226,872.40 in the fiscal year 2021. CIPD Public Information Officer Alica Wildcatt gave an example of a successful checkpoint in Birdtown that confiscated $38,000 worth of drugs from one stop. The majority of what was seized from that incident was methamphetamine.

This also led to a lengthy discussion about reported overdoses in Cherokee. Commission Chairperson Tunney Crowe took particular issue with unreported overdoses. He said that he had been told about several cases where an OD was not reported by the Police Department, and he questioned why.

“We only go by what is reported to us. You might hear that there are overdoses, a lot of time those aren’t reported to us. They may just be reported to EMS. So, we may not have knowledge of some of those. This is just what we get knowledge of,” said Gene Owl regarding the CIPD report.

Other members of the CIPD said that there are times that an officer will respond to an overdose call, but when they arrive on the scene it is not actually an overdose.

After about 15 minutes, the Commission moved to a closed session to discuss personnel issues. This closed session lasted approximately 30 minutes.

Following the opening of the meeting, the final topic with the CIPD had to do with the ongoing issues with suppyling the full department with new body and vehicle cameras. The CIPD had been in extended negotiations with Getac, a company that offered a presentation before Tribal Council in March. Owl and Wildcatt said those discussions have caught a snag following that presentation because of concerns from the EBCI Office of Information Technology (OIT).

“We did ask [OIT] from the beginning to be involved in the process, and they declined until after Getac’s presentation,” said Wildcatt.

This issue raised more questions from the Commission, who has been pushing for the CIPD to secure body cameras for some time.

“[OIT] were on all the emails that were sent out. All the meeting requests. Nobody ever came before Council,” said Wildcatt.

“Then they jumped in there. But I can understand. They spent millions to rebuild our network.   They want everything to be compatible,” said Owl.

The Commission requested that the CIPD keep them informed on the process of getting new body cams. Owl and Wildcatt said there is a chance that OIT would want a different company, which would further delay the purchase.

Before receiving their guests, the Commission looked to confirm new policies for the CIPD. The first came in the form of changes to the TASER policy.

“These new people that are coming into the Police Department, they were coming in saying, ‘oh, well I’ve been tased before in BLET.’ Well, we understand that, and we appreciate that. But, according to our guidelines says that you got to be tased again under our jurisdiction and under our instructors. A couple of people had some issues with that, but evidently, they’ve gotten over it now,” said Chairperson Crowe.

Crowe reminded the Commission that all policies must be reviewed and approved by the Commission.

The other had to do with additions to the Use of Force policy that are being added to match national/state standards. Both of these policies were passed upon review.

Among the other visitors to the Commission meeting was John Nations of the Marshal Service. He described how busy his marshals have been and the need for an increase in staffing. He said that the Tribal Council approved adding three new positions and he is just awaiting when he can implement that into the budget.

Freida Saylor and Kyler Robbins were a pair of guests that came to the Commission looking for support of a new program to have ‘medication-assisted treatment’ (MAT) in jails. This program aims to assist with the problems of mental illness and substance use disorders in incarceration. The presentation received a positive reception from the Commission, but no decisions were made at the time of the meeting.

The June 10 meeting of the EBCI Police Commission was called to order just after 12 p.m. with Chairperson Tooney Crowe; Secretary Anita Lossiah; and Commissioners Lisa Taylor, Kym Parker, Solomon Saunooke, and Hillary Norville all present. Commissioner Frank Dunn was present but late to the meeting. Buddy Johnson was absent from the meeting.

The next meeting of the Police Commission will take place in July, though a specific date is not yet confirmed.

print