Navajo Nation Safety Summit Begins; Vice President Nez Delivers Welcome Address

Vice President Jonathan Nez delivers the welcome address at the 2018 Navajo Nation Public Safety Summit.

Published January 31, 2018

TWIN ARROWS, ARIZONA – The 2018 Navajo Nation Public Safety Summit commenced on Jan. 29 at the Twin Arrows Conference Center. Representatives from the Navajo Division of Public Safety (DPS), Office of the Attorney General, Prosecutor’s Office and more are in attendance for the four-day summit that is free and open to the public.

“The public safety system deals with a lot more than just police officers, judges and lawyers,” Vice President Jonathan Nez said in his welcome address. “It deals with the Division of Social Services, the Department of Health and many others. We’re a team. We’re all working on improving the lives of our people together by giving them the weapons to fight these modern-day monsters that are within the Navajo Nation. We need to use our way of life teachings of resilience and hard work that comes from home.”

Some important components of Navajo summits are communication and collaboration between different divisions, departments and offices. Since the first annual public safety summit was held last year, the Department of Behavioral Health Services has contributed funding to bring a chaplain to the Navajo Police Department. Workforce development has assisted with recruitment for the Corrections Department. The Department of Health has provided reliable data necessary for others to acquire certain grants and additional funding.

“The idea is to collaborate Navajo resources in impacting those problems we have,” Jesse Delmar, Director of Navajo DPS said. “On Navajo, we are talented and we have a lot of potential in impacting crime, and saving lives and turning lives around.”

Day one of the summit included an update on health statistics, Building Communities of Hope and incidents of sexual assault on the Navajo Nation. Program directors sat together in a forum to discuss the status of modern-day monsters in our communities. Attendees were provided updates from law enforcement, criminal investigations, the corrections department and more. Also in attendance was the newly confirmed Chief Justice JoAnn Jayne who was appointed by President Begaye and Vice President Nez, and confirmed last week on Jan. 24.

“The summit is about how we get this system to be more dynamic and to respond more quickly,” Attorney General Ethel Branch said. “How can we focus our energy so that we’re getting the most out of our efforts and bringing in the resources that we need that will allow us to do even more with the resources that we do have.”

Chief of Police Phillip Francisco said that one of his primary concerns has been providing leadership training to all officers and staff.

“If we don’t have a good management team in place—a good leadership team in place—how can we expect our officers to do their job?” Chief Francisco said during his report. He also discussed the need for infrastructure, a higher number of arrests made by Navajo Police in the past year, recruitment and completing backlogged reports.

There is also a need for more officers and the Navajo Nation is in the process of filling all positions.

Under the Begaye-Nez administration and the 23rd Navajo Nation Council, further strides to improve public safety not only include the hiring of Chief Francisco, but also the hiring of Chief Prosecutor Gertrude Lee, raising the wages for police officers, bringing back a police academy onto the nation and purchasing a mass notification system for emergency alerts, including AMBER Alert.

New public safety facilities, funded in part by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, are located in Tuba City, Crownpoint, Kayenta, and Ramah. Most recently, the Twin Arrows Police and Fire substation was opened, which was completed using the Sihasin Fund.

Vice President Nez said that funding is now needed for justice centers in Window Rock, Shiprock and Piñon.

As part of an overarching strategy, outlined by the framework of the Diné Action Plan (DAP), the summit will help drive initiatives to address the modern-day monsters such as suicide, substance abuse and violence.

The public and media representatives are encouraged to attend the summit for the remaining three days, Jan. 30 to Feb. 1. Opening remarks for each day will begin at 8:00 a.m. To register, please visit http://bit.ly/2018NNPSS.

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