Rebuilding the Force
By Rhonda Bigovich, Two Rivers Tribune Contributor Published in Volume 23, Issue 8 on February 28, 2017
Hoopa Tribe Continues to Build Tribal Police Force, Federal Training on the Horizon
Big changes are underway within the Hoopa Valley Tribe’s Police Department (HVTPD). The department has doubled in size now boasting the largest force it has seen in recent history. But, there’s one thing missing—a police chief.
The Hoopa Valley Tribe’s Chairman, Ryan Jackson presently oversees command of the police department until an official is appointed. And HVTPD’s Lieutenant Dana Norton, was recently appointed as the Officer-In-Charge. Norton has twelve years of law enforcement experience.
Currently, the HVTPD Law Enforcement staff includes; four dispatch technicians, eight HVTPD officers and six tribal security officers/cadets. The cadets are scheduled to attend training April 10 in Santa Fe, New Mexico at the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) Indian Police Academy. The Federal Academy comes at no cost to the Hoopa Valley Tribe and the cadets are anticipated to complete their training in approximately three-months.
“Once the cadets have completed their training, HVTPD will have 24-hour coverage of the community,” Norton said.
Norton said having senior officers is important; an officer with five years of experience is considered a senior officer. Currently, most officers are rookie-officers. Former Interim Chief of Police Sergeant Karl Norton, and Sergeant Daryl Mabry are both senior officers with field training experience.
In previous months, the HVTPD had undergone drastic changes where many of the law enforcement officers left HVTPD for other employment opportunities. Former Interim Chief of Police, Norton was left to operate with minimal officers; only two were cross-deputized with Humboldt County’s Sherriff’s Department and three were Tribal Police Security Officers.
Hoopa Valley Tribal Council Member, Vivienna Orcutt said, “Our Tribal Police Officers are trying their best to keep a visible level of law enforcement on the reservation. Despite the fact that Humboldt County has continued to fall short of what is needed. Humboldt County only provides minimal law enforcement on four percent of the Hoopa Valley’s land base.”
According to Karl Norton, Humboldt County possessed a majority of the control over the HVTPD, and officers were expected to follow the Humboldt County Sheriff’s regulations and protocol. He added that it was difficult to operate under those circumstances.
“Having two more officials on board has brought much more structure to the department,” said Sgt. Norton. “Lt. Norton and Sgt. Mabry together add the much needed support the HVTPD needed. It is nice to see operations being dispersed accordingly. This department has been without permanent leadership for over a year and this department has suffered from it. When I came to work for HVTPD in 2010, this department was working on all eight cylinders.”
In 2015, Chairman Jackson collaborated with the BIA and requested for the Corrective Action Support Team (CAST) to assist the HVTPD in restructure.
Associate Director for Field of Operations from the BIA Office of Justice Service, David Little, came to Hoopa to conduct an in-depth evaluation of the HVTPD operations. Corrective feedback was given with specified improvements of what was required to bring the HVTPD into compliance with the Department of Justice Regulations.
Dana Norton said it is his intention to concentrate on the CAST report, and considers the report to be his main focus of work. Much of the emphasis was on evidence storage that had not been stored properly for a set period of time.
Dana Norton said, “There are two qualified evidence technicians on the HVTPD force, Karl Norton and Dwayne Lane are valuable assets to this department. Evidence is brought into the office on a daily basis.”
Dana Norton is consistent with daily operations and actively implementing leadership values. As a directive from Chairman’s Office, the HVTPD will reinforce tribal loitering laws in the downtown Hoopa area. All HVTPD officers will execute random weekly patrol units, flush out panhandlers.
“I do have ideas on how I would like to lead the HVTPD to address the war on drugs within the reservation. Though I am not at liberty to discuss the details or disclose this information to the public. It hits me in the heart to see people live this way. It is vital we do something about the drug epidemic on the reservation. It’s now or never,” said Dana Norton. “We know who sells drugs around here and it is my duty as a police officer to make Hoopa a safe place to be. This isn’t anything personal against the local dealers, but it’s time to be accountable.”
Dana Norton swore to devote his time to restore the HVTPD back to the service of the people. He plans to bring the HVTPD back to regulatory standards and be in full compliance with the requirements of the Department of Justice.
“I have an open door policy. I encourage citizens to come into the office and ask question or voice their concerns,” said Dana Norton. “You might have to make appointment, but I will make the time to talk you.”