Yakama Nation and YCSO seek federal funds to hire additional officers

YAKIMA COUNTY, Wash. – For the first time, the Yakama Nation Tribal Police and the Yakima County Sheriff’s Office are joining forces to call on lawmakers to apply for federal funding to help them get the resources they need to ensure community safety.

Tribal police officers and council members, along with county commissioners and the sheriff, held an unprecedented joint press conference on Thursday to share their urgent request for help in hiring more officers and establishing a regional lab. of the crime.

“We need more. We need help. And it’s time,” Yakima County Sheriff Bob Udell said.

While the Yakama Nation is Washington State’s largest reservation at 1.4 million acres, it has a total of 20 tribal policemen and only about three are on duty at a time.

Sheriff’s deputies help patrol the reservation, but can only spare one or two deputies at a time to help. This means that there are typically fewer than half a dozen law enforcement officers on duty at any one time to cover the entire southern half of the county.

Lt. Jeff Chumley of the Yakama Nation Tribal Police said they don’t have the money to hire new officers or even keep the ones they have. He said they had recently lost eight agents, many of whom had been recruited by agencies with the resources to give them a more competitive offer.

“They have a good pension and good insurance and that’s something that would really help us if we could get that,” Chumley said.

Although they have fewer resources to fight crime, they are seeing an increase in violence, drugs, gang activity and property theft – an increase that is difficult to manage with so few officers and personnel. assistants available during a shift.

“Even the council members were robbed,” said Yakama Nation councilor Jeremy Takala.

Both agencies are also requesting federal assistance to support multi-agency efforts to bring a regional crime lab to Yakima County to avoid facing delays of months or sometimes years due to large backlogs of state crime labs.

Having access to their own toxicology and DNA testing would make investigations more efficient, but it would also help families whose loved ones have yet to be brought home to rest.

Takala said that for members of the Yakama Nation, it is culture and tradition to bury a family member within three days. Some families with murdered loved ones have to wait months in state crime labs or, in the case of Rosenda Strong, more than two years.

“The thing is, it shouldn’t take that long for someone to return the remains to the family,” he added.

Police and tribal deputies said they were doing the best they could with the resources they had and were grateful for recent efforts to address the outbreak of missing and murdered Natives on the reservation.

However, without more agents to investigate these cases and assist MMIWP work teams, they will not have the same impact on the community.

They have sent a letter to federal lawmakers and are waiting to hear about potential funding or grant opportunities.

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