Tribal members protest the shooting of Allen Locke by a police officer in Rapid City, South Dakota. Photo from KELO News / Twitter
Police reach across the aisle
Rapid City begins healing process
By Richie Richards
Native Sun News Staff Writer RAPID CITY –– As the community of Rapid City begins the healing process following the shooting death of Allen Locke by RCPD Officer Anthony Meirose on December 20, several organizations are scrambling to find positive solutions to investigate and solve these too frequent occurrences. One such organization is the Rapid City Police Department. Visitors of the RCPD web page can find general information regarding the civic duties and services of this department. The home page charmingly boasts of its foundation during the “Wild West” days in 1882, followed up with a notation of being a modern and technologically-advanced agency. Though equipped with some “modern” devices and systems, the RCPD still lack simple gadgets, like body cameras, which would protect the officers, yet make them accountable for their actions. Further navigation of the RCPD web page, provides information regarding community outreach and programming. The “Community Involvement” page lists programs such as; Cruiser Car Show & Street Fair, Guns ‘n Hoses, Special Olympics and the Graffiti Eradication Project. While these are great events, there are none held in support of the 12.8 % percent Native American population which resides in Rapid City (per the 2010 Census). The Yo! RCPD Academy is a five-week program held each spring in which students from local high schools, with an interest in law enforcement careers, partake in law enforcement programming. Students learn police procedures, forensic policing, emergency response, ride along with an officer, and basic firearm training. When asked whether Native American students were actively sought for the Yo! Program, Chief Jegeris stated, “Students from local schools are actively recruited at Central, Stevens, and Jefferson,” but concedes attempts to specifically recruit Native American students are not active. This program would be great for young Native American students and help with recruitment efforts. One place to find Native American representation on the RCPD web page is in the “Unsolved Homicides” link to which the most recent listings are of; Robert Ghostbear, found dead in March, 2012 on the railroad tracks near East North Street with cause of death determined as blunt force trauma to the head, and Carl Bordeaux, found dead in Jan., 2009 in an apartment on North Maple Avenue with his throat cut and a cord wrapped around his neck. On Wednesday, Jan. 7, Native Sun News interviewed RCPD Chief Karl Jegeris, Captain Don Hedrick - Commander of the Support Services Division, and Brendyn Medina – Community Relations Specialist, regarding police and Native American relations. In 2007-2008, the RCPD reached out to the Pine Ridge Reservation to set up meetings with the Tribal Judiciary Committee to implement an officer exchange program with the Oglala Sioux Tribal Police Department. Police Chief Jegeris proudly states, “I personally designed the officer exchange program with hopes of building relationships with tribal communities.” Though short lived, the officer exchange program sent over thirty RCPD officers and staff to Pine Ridge for exposure to reservation issues; officers reported they had a very positive experience working with tribes. This program ended in 2009 as a result of political issues within the reservation, according to Jegeris. In May, 2014 Jegeris met with the PRPD to reinitiate the program; currently, both parties just need to “work out the logistics,” according to Jegeris. During the Lakota Nation Invitational (LNI) tournaments held Dec. 17 – 20, Chief Jegeris discussed the decision permitting the Anti-Police Brutality March and Rally. The general concern was that of public safety during the events; but noted he supports the citizens’ right of the First Amendment. Jegeris shared stories of Native American family members coming up to him at LNI and privately thanking him for taking a stand against the protest march during the high school event. Jegeris said, “Dealing with activism is challenging in many ways, one such difficulty is identifying who is the voice of the Native American community.” Organizers of the rally were non-residents of Rapid City. We did not discuss the investigation of Locke’s death, but Jegeris did mention the results will be published in the “next week or two.” RCPD is aware of the possible emotional reaction from the community and is prepared to move forward with dialogue and action. Officer Medina submitted the following statement regarding questions about RCPD cultural sensitivity trainings and programs, “The RCPD is committed to providing timely training to agency personnel as a part of the RCPD’s training program. Bias based profiling and related training may include topics such as appropriate practices and procedures, supervisory issues, cultural diversity, communications skills and related legal mandates including the legal aspects of bias based profiling.” As for a listing of past trainings beginning in 1998, RCPD submitted the following:
• November 1998 – Human Relations Training, Instructed by People Awareness and Communication Education (PACE) Institute.All of this looks great on paper, but the decisions made by officers on patrol and their response to individuals are the direct reaction of training, their emotional state, threats to their physical well-being, and personal experiences of life. Cops are human beings who make mistakes, too. When asked directly about profiling in Rapid City, Jegeris explained the need for patrolling high-risk neighborhoods, needing quick response to areas with high needs, and that RCPD officers are “looking for behaviors” rather than individuals. Although not departmentalized, profiling does exist in Rapid City. NSN asked Jegeris why cops are constantly parked outside of Lakota Community Homes in the Lowe’s parking lot. He stated that it is procedural for cops to “park in open spaces to have a full view around themselves,” and quick response is key to patrolling certain neighborhoods. Jegeris shared the policing of the streets is a statistical decision; areas with the most calls for assistance are the most heavily patrolled. When police immediately ask for identification, Jegeris says, “This can be misconstrued. This is an officer safety issue as identifying oneself lessens the odds of resisting and them running is greatly diminished.” ID’ing individuals and calling dispatch for warrant checks is sometimes viewed as harassment by some Native Americans; which is a catch twenty-two as criminals are removed but innocents go through the humiliation of temporarily feeling detained. When discussing communications with Native Americans and organized groups, the RCPD is without a clear understanding of who speaks for the community. As many groups, old and new, have excellent motives and solutions to present, the Police Chief is busily working to accommodate their requests and needs. When asked about the March 7, 2014 Native American/R.C. Police, Forum in Rapid City hosted by a local activist group called United Urban Warrior Society and the RCPD role in this forum, Jegeris stated the department had not been formally invited and he could not officially respond to an advertisement on social media. This is one example of the disorganization currently happening in Rapid City. Dealing with the many groups in and around Rapid City is part of the frustration for Chief Jegeris and the RCPD. All the many Native American groups have good intentions, but dealing with each individual group, who have overlapping ideals, is time consuming and redundant. Currently, there are too many chiefs in the tipi per se. Organization within these groups is necessary to collectively move forward; so activists can have demands met, pacifists can have peaceful resolutions, political organizations can get their partisan support, and youth can have a secure right to their safety. Chief Karl Jegeris, Captain Don Hedrick and Officer Brendyn Medina wanted to thank the Native American community for their support, are open to suggestions, ask for help in recruitment of Native American officers, and hope relations can move forward in a positive manner. For more information, please visit the RCPD website at www.rcgov.org/Police (Contact Richie Richards at firstname.lastname@example.org) Copyright permission Native Sun News
• April 2003 – Cross Cultural Contacts – 4 hour block of in-service training.
• May 2004 – Cross Culture Contact/Bias Based Profiling – 4 hour block of in-service training.
• April 2006 – Anti-Bias Policing– 2 hour block of in-service training.
• March 2007 – Bias Based Policing - 2 hour block of in-service training.
• March 2008 – Cultural Awareness Training – (Focus on Native American Culture) -2 hour block.
• March 2010 – Native American Culture –2 hour block of in-service training.
• January 2014 – Cultural Diversity & Biased Based Policing – 2 hour block of in-service training.
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