By Jerome Tharaud
Former Rocky Boy Police Chief Arthur Windy Boy has regained his job.
Windy Boy appealed his firing, which occurred after the Chippewa Cree tribal council asked the Bureau of Indian Affairs to investigate the operations of the Rocky Boy Police Department.
The tribal council held a hearing on the appeal Feb. 28, and voted 4-2 to reinstate Windy Boy, council member Tony Belcourt said. Council members Jake Parker and Bruce Sunchild were not present at the hearing, Belcourt said.
Belcourt and John Chance Houle both voted against Windy Boy's reinstatement, Belcourt said.
"I felt we needed a little better direction for our police force," Belcourt said.
Council chair Alvin Windyboy Sr. declined to comment on the decision today.
The entire Police Department at Rocky Boy was put on probation on Dec. 4, after tribal officials received allegations of police brutality and improper procedure, Arthur Windy Boy said.
On Dec. 6, the employees were reinstated with the exception of Arthur Windy Boy and criminal investigators Stan Gardipee and Richard Morsette.
The allegations prompted the tribal council to request a BIA investigation of tribal law enforcement, which was carried out in December.
The tribal council has not yet seen the BIA's written evaluation of tribal law enforcement, but Arthur Windy Boy said the BIA official who conducted the investigation gave the tribal council a verbal report in early January that included allegations of "ineffective leadership" of tribal law enforcement.
Arthur Windy Boy also said tribal law enforcement was given a "low score" by the BIA for failing to implement mandatory law enforcement standards like breathalyzer tests, new arrest procedures and physical exams for officers.
The same week, Windy Boy said, he was suspended with pay on Jan. 3 after he was accused of pulling a gun on someone on New Year's Eve when he was off-duty. Windy Boy said he had had a few beers, and that there had been an argument, but denied having a gun at the time.
Windy Boy did not return to work again before he was fired on Jan. 28 along with Gardipee, Morsette, and tribal prosecutor Mike Parker. Windy Boy filed an appeal on Jan. 31, and was, he said, the only one of the fired officials to appeal.
"My argument was, hey, I've been trying to implement this policy, so they're giving me a second chance and I'm thankful," Windy Boy said Wednesday.
Windy Boy said part of the problem was his department's failure to implement 133 mandatory BIA law enforcement standards, but that he was not the only one at fault. He said the tribal council had dragged its feet adopting a new law enforcement manual that would have helped the department update its procedures to implement the standards, and that the BIA had not responded to repeated requests for the disks necessary to install the new manual on the tribe's computer system.
Windy Boy said he petitioned the tribal council to adopt the new law enforcement manual last March, and a second ime last December. Both times, he said, the council would not adopt the new program because the BIA had not sent the disks.
Windy Boy denied allegations of police brutality at Rocky Boy, and said the complaints were a result of misconceptions in the community.
Windy Boy also blamed the complaints on the personal loyalties of many of the people who complained.
"Nobody's ever going to be happy because so and so's relative got arrested," he said.
Windy Boy said he's is confident that the BIA takeover of the Blackfeet tribal police department in Browning in February has spurred both the Chippewa Cree tribal council and the Rocky Boy department to move forward to implement the standards. "They're focusing now. They're waking up," he said.
But he said that the tribe is still waiting on a written report from the BIA investigation, which would "give them something to work with to bring the findings up to par."