Honoring Nations: Ken James: The Flandreau Police Department (2005)

Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development

Former Flandreau Police Chief Ken James present an overview of the Flandreau Police Department to the Honoring Nations Board of Governors in conjunction with the 2005 Honoring Nations Awards.

Resource Type

James, Ken. "The Flandreau Police Deparment," Honoring Nations Awards event. Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. Tulsa, Oklahoma. November 1, 2005. Presentation.

Ken James:

"My heart is leaping with joy, with passion that we have an opportunity to come here today to showcase our presentation on our unique city-tribal police partnership that we have in Flandreau, South Dakota. And I want to offer my gratitude and appreciation to the board for allowing us... because what would happen is if we just kept our program to our self, we're not really helping other agencies and other communities across our great nation. And so what we have up here is, I want to show you our logo and what it has there is our police logo, which is our patch. What it does is it identifies our, pretty much our mission statement and how we operate as a police department. That was put together when we first initiated our program by a seventh grader. We wanted the community to take ownership of our department by having the public get involved and a seventh grader drew that and put that together. What it consists of is the...it shows the farm and agricultural community which Flandreau is in Moody County and it also shows on the bottom the river which is called the Big Sioux River which runs right through the Flandreau Santee Sioux tribal reservation and the city of Flandreau and then we also of course have our logo of the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe. And I'm going to go on and talk a little bit about our history, our jurisdiction and our sustainability as far as our joint police partnership.

As far as I know, we're the only city-tribal police partnership in the United States. That doesn't mean that there are contractual agreements between city and tribes or county and tribes, and so I believe that what we have today, what we're going to present about and talk about and hopefully after the program today, if any of the people in the audience want informational sharing on our program look forward to seeing our representatives that are here or myself. Thank you very much for that. The history of us is that we began in 2000 as a police department. The city and the tribe approached one another and asked about the possibility of putting together a joint police department and what happened... it wasn't nothing unique at first because in the city of Flandreau and the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe, because of previous joint ventures, they didn't see us as something special at first, and so what they done was they got together and they put together what was called a Public Safety Commission, a nine-member commission. And at that time what they done was the commission members was made up of both tribal members and city representatives. And what they did was they did a feasibility study and they also did some research looking into if it would even be possible. And then in August they got with both the city and tribal councils and they made the recommendation that, they said this will work, this program will work and so they put it together. They put the Public Safety Commission together and then they made the recommendations and then they put together what was called the Joint Powers Agreement. What that was is they put the city language, the city attorney got together with the tribal attorney and they came up with what was called the Joint Powers Agreement. And for those of you who want a copy of that, you just get hold of us, we have it on our email and we'll be glad to send that to you.

So what happened then was when we began in January of 2001 as a police department, we had to put together a standard operating procedures manual. And in that we also had to work on our cross-deputization agreements and that meant that our police department was cross-deputizing with the tribe, through the tribal courts, and we were also cross-deputized through the state. So in Flandreau, if I could step away from the podium for a moment, on some city streets in Flandreau or in some tribal jurisdictions in Flandreau, it depends if you're standing on this side of the street you're on tribal land, if you're over here on this side of the street you're on city or state jurisdiction. So it's a very complex issue but through our training our officers go through we've been able to figure that all out. And then of course we also put together our Mutual Aid Agreements with our law enforcement program. And then in September of 2003 the final piece of that cross-deputization agreements was that the tribe went one step further and they allowed the Moody County Sheriff's Department to be a part of that agreement process and what they've done was the tribe has what's called fee land, which the state has jurisdiction on, and so what happens is the Moody County Sheriff's Department patrols that.

What happened was in July 19th of 2003 during our annual Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe Powwow, everything came together in unison and it took an emergency to see everything come together. What happened was we had a fatality accident that happened where several occupants were thrown from the vehicle and we had one 14 year old that had died from the accident. The multiple agency's response to that was primarily we put safety first. We didn't...we weren't bothered, we weren't hindered by jurisdictional issues and the rescue, the fire and rescue responded and so what happened was through that everything was handled accordingly, it went by the book and what happened was out of that, out of that tragedy we got together with the city...tribal prosecutor, the Moody County state's attorney, the local sheriff and myself and we came up with what we call a zero-tolerance policy on underage drinking. We realized the impact that that accident had and we realized with the problems associated with underage drinking in our community, we came up with a zero-tolerance policy. And last we also...we ended up...because the Flandreau community's so small, because of the tragedy it impacted the community. It had a very adverse affect on the community. So what we done was we put together a healing walk and what we did with that was we got together with multi agencies and we put together a march, a walk in memory of the accident and it was also to kind of bring healing to the community.

Our jurisdiction, this is very pivotal here because as you can see up on top it shows our citizens come first as far as our organizational structure and our span of control. The citizens come first. And then it breaks down into our city council, then over it has our tribal council and then if you look down it has our city liaison and our tribal liaison. The city liaison and the tribal liaison, they both serve on the Public Safety Commission and they're kind of...they go back and report the monthly meeting that we have to the respective entities and then of course we have our nine-member Public Safety Commission that breaks down to the Chief of Police, the Sergeant, our police officers, and then of course our citizens again.

Our sustainability and our promising practices of our department: in the past five years we have emerged as a growing respectable police agency in South Dakota, and how we done that was by applying our standard operating procedures. Some of our procedures are nationally accredited policies and procedures that I had adopted from my previous employment. We also applied our community principles into our standard operating procedures and that's pretty much our philosophy and how we approach law enforcement. Then we also, we have our joint law enforcement training. Through training with osmosis, some of our non-Indian officers, I think they receive the best training in the world as far as cultural competency. They understand that they work with the tribe, that we have tribal members and so I think they get the best training as far as cultural sensitivity from our department as to going to maybe a one-week course. We have had, again we've had five years of continued law enforcement operation. We share our joint partnership as a model with other agencies. I think that's pivotal for us here today is that we have stepped forward, we have stepped out of the box and we have moved forward. Just recently we...last month we put on what was called the Great Plains Summit on Meth. In our community, we do have problems just like other jurisdictions and other communities, but we did something about it. We didn't sit on the sidelines and wait for something to happen. We took control and through that it's inspired and it has motivated other tribal communities to go back and start their own task force. Then last, our sovereignty, we have our sovereignty, which is understanding the unique relationship with the tribe, then we have our safety by promoting safety, developing that safety network in our community. And then I think what's equally important is the synergy that goes into that. There's a saying that says, 'A single twig breaks but a bundle of twigs is strong,' and that's the unification of our services as a police department in Flandreau. And then of course our sustainability, staying on task, staying on top of our programs, looking for innovative ways of moving forward into the future. I think that's one of our promising practices is having a visionary response of going forward rather than backwards. And then last is that equals our success as a police department. Thank you very much."

Heather Kendall-Miller:

"Chief Ken James, I'd like to ask you a question and you've given us a good view of the sustainability practices of your police department but I wanted to ask a little bit further, pry a little bit more. What you've accomplished is incredible, but I'm wondering whether or not the program itself would continue at the level of sustainability were it not for you. You seem to be a very dynamic police chief, and obviously you've been part of the success of this whole program. Is there a mentoring aspect of this program that you are cultivating in the event, for instance, you're not there? Second of all, and you touched upon this a little bit, I think what's also phenomenal about this program is that obviously on some levels you've dealt with racism within the community. The community has come together on this and jointly agreed to go forward. Is there still a level of tension related to racism within your community that the police department continues to attempt to address?"

Ken James:

"First, to answer her first question, I'm very privileged and very blessed to the Chief of Police for the city of Flandreau and the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe. I see myself only as a buffer. I'm the one that polishes and shines. That's what I do best is I polish and shine. It's people in our audience that has attended, come a long way from South Dakota to make this police department a reality. It's coming together and having the integration of the community that first and foremost, they're the ones that seen the vision of this wanting to take shape and take place and I think hiring me as the chief, I came in and I've done what I can. But I'm hoping today that...I'm here to also...I have the capacity to acquire and to learn and I want to learn from the audience and I want to learn hopefully from the governing board here that perhaps, maybe there's things that we can do better as far as our visionary response. So I think that's one of the key things to our success as far as our sustainability is working together in unison. We have community leadership meetings and then what happens is that the city and the tribal council, the city council, the tribal council, what they do is they sit down and they meet and they go over to review the past year's events and the progress and things that have been made as far as our police department. So I think what's very important and I want to emphasize is that communication is, I think it's very imperative. I think that's probably the most, the key that lies behind the measurable success of our agency. And I understand, I read a lot and I do want to emphasize also that I do know that what we've been able to do in Flandreau, I know there's been other communities that have done likewise and I just read an article in the Lakota Journal, where the city of Bismarck is now looking at ways of strengthening and bringing some sort of resolve to maybe their community tension and things that are going on in Bismarck, and I know Mr. Dave Gipp there has been instrumental in working with that, the City of Bismarck. I know he's been doing that for a long time.

The second part is dealing with racism. As you know, as being a chief of police and being in law enforcement for 20 plus years, I have realized that I don't take things personal when things are said or directed at me as the chief or...and this is dealing with racism and I have learned to be very thick-skinned and what we have been able to do when we deal with some of the tension and anxieties that go on in the community, more so when we're dealing with events that are tragic in nature, sometimes we have to go around some of those things and sometimes we don't just put a band-aid approach to it, but we have to go right directly through it sometimes, right through the barriers and through those elements. I'm very fortunate to have a community that understands that we're coming together as a police department and as a community as a whole in Flandreau. One of the most important things about the sustainability is that if we don't have safety in our communities, everything kind of dwindles and economic development will dwindle and people wouldn't want to come to the Premiere Royal River Casino in Flandreau because it would be unsafe to come for a form of recreation and entertainment."

Michael Lipsky:

"Chief, congratulations on your achievements. Our program is concerned with the governance of the nations and so we're particularly interested in the relationship between your work and the tribal council. And I don't have a clear picture yet of how the council came to the opinion that it should move in the direction that it has. I wonder if you could explain that to us a little bit more."

Ken James:

"What happened, the history as far as law enforcement was that the tribe had a tribal officer at one time in the history of their law enforcement. Then they switched gears and they went over to the BIA and then in the past, back in the '80s they went back and they contracted with the Moody County Sheriff's Department and that was all the way up until the year, around 2000 when the city mayor and the city council met with the tribal council and decided that they were going to look at having their own law enforcement. And at that time because of the previous joint ventures as far as water development and some of the other programs that the city had joined forces with the tribe, it was a perfect glove that fit and so they said, 'We're going to dare to try something different,' and that's the key is you're facilitating positive change. It's going on yesterday and it's going on today." 

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