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Native Sun News: Former police chief runs for mayor in Rapid City

The following story was written and reported by Richie Richards, Native Sun News Staff Writer. All content © Native Sun News.

Steve Allender. Photo from Facebook

Interview with former police chief
By Richie Richards
Native Sun News Staff Writer

RAPID CITY –– Mayor Sam Kooiker has a new opponent in the mayoral race; he is the former Rapid City Police Chief Steve Allender. Amanda Scott withdrew from the race last week.

Allender is a Belle Fourche native who began his law enforcement career in 1984 on the Belle Fourche Police Department. In 1985 he moved to Rapid City, joining the RCPD to begin a 29 year career.

He is married with two adult children and has a degree in management and graduated with the 219th session of the FBI National Academy in Quantico, Va.

His tenure, before retiring in 2014, included being a patrol officer, detective, sergeant, crime lab director, lieutenant, captain, and in 2007 he became the chief of police.

Over the years, Allender has worked in multiple capacities as a citizen of Rapid City and as a law enforcement officer. He has been a board or committee member in Women Against Violence Inc. (WAVI), Community Relations Council, Western Dakota Technical Institute Advisory Committee, City/county Drug and Alcohol Programs Advisory Board, among others as well. May 15 is the start of early voting and it is also the deadline to register to vote.

In an interview with Native Sun News Allender discussed getting Native American voters to the polls, “The government doesn’t sell anything you have a choice in buying… There is a lack of confidence in government by our citizens… I have noticed the Native community has less confidence in government than other communities.”

“When a group of people become uninterested, when they are disenfranchised, then they ask themselves why am I voting today, if nothing’s going to change anyway. It is a confidence issue,” he says.

“This traditional lack of confidence in city, state and federal government from the tribal members in South Dakota goes back countless generations. The broken treaties and promises over the years, continuing today in many ways, have contributed to the lack of trust in governmental policy and leaders,” he said.

Allender believes alcoholism is out of the hands of politicians, but through his experience in law enforcement he is aware of dealing with individuals over the years on numerous occasions. He mentioned that certain ones have, “Gotten themselves arrested on purpose to have a place to sleep at night.”

He closely relates homelessness, with mental illness and alcoholism, “It is a compounded problem with no easy answer.” In regards to opening a safe house or “wet house” in Rapid City, he was supportive of that idea. But confides it would be a funding issue and not completely supported by all members of city government.

The mayoral candidate goes on to discuss his desire to work with a committee or group of Native American citizens of Rapid City to work in an advisory capacity for race relations in city limits. He is aware of the question of, ‘Who best represents and can speak for the community?’

A federal lawsuit was filed against Steve Allender by Glen Yellow Robe in 2009 for racial discrimination and harassment. Yellow Robe was a veteran officer of over twenty years before being terminated in 2007.

This case was dismissed by U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Viken, who took notice of discriminatory and racial jokes around the work place by Allender and others, but felt Yellow Robe was a willing participant in the race-based banter.

Allender confirmed the offices of the Rapid City Police Department, during his time as a patrol officer and in a supervisory role, was a “frat house” type of environment. He admits to using work time as a place for practical jokes, public humiliation of officers, and inappropriate relations between a supervisor and subordinate.

Native Sun News also interviewed Glen Yellow Robe regarding these accusations, the lawsuit and his time of working with Allender -- whom he considered to be a friend.

Yellow Robe confirms joking did take place but over the years, he feels, the jokes became cruder, more frequent, and began to include more staff members joining in. Although the intention of the “frat house” environment was meant to be fun and make time go by faster, it was humiliating to Yellow Robe, who often was the brunt of the “Indian jokes.”

Election Day is June 2 for Rapid City. The Native American vote plays a major role in the campaign efforts and results of elections.

(Contact Richie Richards at

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