After 16 months, Navajo Nation Police Chief Making Progress

Navajo Times | Donovan Quintero
Navajo Nation Police Chief Phillip Francisco on Aug. 22, 2016, after being sworn in.

Published January 7, 2018

WINDOW ROCK – The small steps the Navajo Nation Police Department has been making since Chief Phillip Francisco took the reins in July 2016 could come to fruition in 2018.

Beginning with the department’s biggest one: opening its own police academy, which begins on Monday.

Since the Navajo Law Enforcement Academy in Toyei, Arizona, closed in 2013, prospective police officers have attended academies throughout Arizona in order to get their certifications.

This year – five years later – NDPS police officer candidates will get to train on the reservation in Chinle.

“We have 13 officers hired,” said Francisco. “They’re in Chinle now doing in-processing, as far as their benefits and department policy goes. In the next two to three weeks, we should have another five officers.”

Jesse Delmar, Division of Public Safety’s director, said in a December 2016 interview the academy was only temporary and that an actual training center would eventually be built.

The academy is scheduled to open Monday. It will eventually be closed down and moved into a new training center.

The police chief said since there is no driving course at the academy, students would be taking the one-week course at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center U.S. Indian Police Academy in Artesia, New Mexico. The chief also added firearms training may also be held there too.

“It’s all moving forward. It’s a big step,” he said of the 13-week Navajo Nation Police academy.

Navajo Times | Donovan Quintero
A Navajo Nation Police officer stands watch as he holds a department-issued handgun by his side during a police raid in this May 4, 2012, file photo.

Eleven police officers graduated from various Arizona academies they attended last year, which Francisco said he hopes will increase.

“I would hope we have two more classes this year,” he said. “Potentially, 60 within the next year, but I would say, realistically, 40 this year. If we can do three academy classes in a year, with 20 in each class, that’s potentially 60. We’ll see how it goes and how many people we can get.”

One of the reasons the process of hiring a police officer has been taking forever, Francisco said, was completing a person’s criminal background check. He said he hopes the check would speed up when the department contracts out the checking process.

“It’s taking months and months and months to do those things,” he said, which require taking a police officer “off the streets” to do a background check. “Once the academy gets started and going, and we get it going, it’s a huge step, and things will start flowing easier and getting good officers.”

Another step Francisco said he and the department have been working on is hiring a deputy chief who would oversee day-to-day operations and other department-related issues.

Potential candidates must have a bachelor’s degree and at least five years as a captain and experience supervising a large department of over 150 personnel, he added.

“I’m really hoping to get it done within the next month,” he said. “I’ll have more help here because there’s a lot of work to be done. I’m only one person, even with the captains.”

Francisco said Capt. Henry Moore and Capt. Mike Henderson have divided the department’s seven police districts between one another. He said Moore would be taking Chinle, Kayenta, Crownpoint, and Shiprock, while Henderson would be taking Window Rock, Dilkon and Tuba City.

Handling inter-departmental concerns and working with the counties that were situated within a district’s boundary were just two of the many responsibilities they are taking on.

“But with the deputy chief, hopefully I can give more of the operations stuff to the deputy chief, as far as coordinating with officers,” he said. “And I can concentrate on the administrative stuff, like I’ve been doing, such as department policies, and dealing with the Council, money. Those kind of big things and little bit less of having to deal with everyday operations in each of the districts.”

Another issue he’s been tackling is a new Window Rock police facility. The costs of maintaining and doing constant repair work on the aging building are too high. One place he has been looking into temporarily moving into was the Education Center. But that was also still “in the works.”

“It’s really dangerous for our employees right now,” he said. “We’ve been kicked out three times in the last three months because of gas leaks, CO2 readings. The building has also been shifting. The building’s so old we can’t even put new stuff in there.”

Providing leadership training for sergeants, and “the up-and-coming lower leadership” that have been “kind of left in the dark” was also another goal the chief said, that may happen this year.

He added that he also hopes to hire a public information officer, which he said is in the last stages of being approved.

Editor’s Note: This article was first publiehed by the Navajo Times. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

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