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Shiprock police respond to criticism

SHIPROCK – The Shiprock community is complaining that its police department is not responding to calls for help quickly enough – or sometimes at all.

“We have a number of challenges that we are currently working on,” Shiprock Police Capt. Ivan Tsosie said in a news release. Tsosie said the department had been receiving complaints.

Tsosie spoke before the Navajo Nation Council’s Law and Order Committee to address the current status of the Shiprock Police Department last week.

Tsosie could not be reached for comment Monday and The Daily Times has not been able to reach him for several months. Tsosie, who is in charge of the Shiprock District, spends much of his time in Window Rock because he also is serving as the acting chief of police for the entire Navajo Nation, according to Navajo police in Shiprock and Window Rock.

Tsosie explained that Shiprock’s officers are stretched thin because of the vast area they have to cover. The issue is not specific to Shiprock, though. Most of the police departments on the Navajo Nation share the same problem.

While other rural areas in the United States have about four officers for every 1,000 people, the Navajo Nation has about 0.4 officers for every 1,000 people, according to U.S. Department of Justice reports.

“They tell you three days. Three days never comes,” said Emerson Watchman, a Gallup resident who visited the Shiprock police earlier this month to report stolen property. “Hopefully I get an answer.”

The committee also listened to a report from Shiprock Judicial District Court officials. Since Jan. 1 this year, the court has handled 3,532 cases, along with an additional 932 cases pending.

Of the total cases, including those pending, 747 have been closed, and 3,717 remain open.

Shiprock District Court Administrator Ethel Laughing deferred all questions to Navajo Nation Department of Justice spokeswoman Karen Francis on Monday. Francis could not be reached for comment.

Shiprock community members and leaders, however, hope for solutions, and soon. If anything, they are hoping that a new police department and district court facility would alleviate the issues. The facility would cost about $47.5 million to build, according to the Navajo Nation Department of Corrections.

“This facility will certainly meet the needs of the greater number of people,” said Duane Yazzie, Shiprock Chapter president. “Keep our Shiprock complex at the top of the list.”

Shiprock is one of several communities awaiting such facilities on the Navajo Nation. It is second on the list, after Chinle and before Fort Defiance, Piñon and Dilkon.

“Right now, we are shovel-ready and ready to go,” Tsosie said. “We just need the funds.”

Whether new facilities will fix existing issues, however, cannot yet be determined.
— This article appeared on page C1 of the Albuquerque Journal

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