Tribal Government & News

Grant grows Tribal police force by one employee

10.12.2012 Ron Karten Federal government, Public safety

The Tribe's police force will include one more officer and one more vehicle now that it has received a $378,103 U.S. Department of Justice grant to pay for hiring, training and equipment.

The funds will be used for hiring a third police officer in 2013.

"The Tribe received a grant in the amount of $256,279 to fund an additional police officer over a three-year period," said Tribal Director of Development Peter Wakeland, who supervises the Tribe's growing police force. "The Tribe would provide funding after the three-year grant expires."

In addition, the Tribe received another $121,824 to pay for the additional officer's vehicle, equipment and training.

"It's one more vehicle and one more officer," said Tribal Planning & Grants Development Manager Kim Rogers.

The new grant will complement a three-year, $672,525 grant received by the Tribe in October 2011 that pays for the addition of two officers before the end of 2012.

The Tribe recently conducted an interview for the Chief of Police position and hopes to have a chief on board soon, Wakeland said. Once a chief is hired, the Tribe will move forward, hiring two additional police officers before the end of the year and a third police officer in 2013.

They will work with former Forest Patrol Officer Jake McKnight, who graduated last year from the state's Department of Public Safety Standards and Training Academy in Salem to become the Tribe's first law enforcement officer. McKnight's position and the Chief of Police post are Tribally funded.

When the four new positions are filled, the five-member Tribal police force will continue to work with the Polk County Sheriff's Office for law enforcement coverage in the community.

In July 2011, the Oregon Legislature gave Tribal police the same powers delegated to other Oregon police. Senate Bill 412 requires that Tribal police be trained at the state's training academy, that Tribes provide police oversight, adhere to the state's open records law and adopt evidence protection standards, all requirements currently in use by federal, state and local police.

The federal grants require the Tribe to fund the three new police positions for a year after the grants expire.

"The Tribal dollars post-grant could be Bureau of Indian Affairs Tribal law enforcement dollars we are working on receiving now that we are eligible due to Senate Bill 412," Rogers said.

A Tribal police force is the latest step in the Tribe continuing its efforts to reclaim sovereignty. As early as 1985 in the Grand Ronde Tribal Reservation Plan, the Tribe called for a Tribal police force.

The most recent grant was among more than 200 grants awarded to more than 110 American Indian and Alaska Native nations through the Justice Department's Coordinated Tribal Assistance Solicitation program.

"These awards represent our ongoing commitment to help put an end to the unacceptable and sobering crime rates witnessed in Indian Country," said Acting Associate Attorney General Tony West.

"Tribal leaders in Oregon are deeply committed to the safety of their communities," said U.S. Attorney for Oregon Amanda Marshall. "These Justice Department grants to Oregon Tribal nations total more than $3 million. My office looks forward to our continued partnership with Tribal law enforcement and victim advocates to reduce crime rates in Indian Country."