By Patrick Winderl
Three Chippewa Cree police officers and the tribal prosecutor were fired Tuesday, tribal officials said today.
The officers dismissed by the Chippewa Cree tribal council were Rocky Boy Police Chief Arthur Windy Boy and criminal investigators Stan Gardipee and Richard Morsette. Also fired was Tribal Prosecutor Mike Parker.
Tribal attorney Dan Belcourt said today that the firings stemmed in part from an investigation of the Police Department and from budget considerations.
The Chippewa Cree tribal council placed the entire police department on probation Dec. 4. On Dec. 6, the tribal council rescinded its decision, and revoked the probation for all officers but Windy Boy, Gardipee and Morsette.
The three were to remain on probation pending the outcome of an investigation by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The BIA began an external review of the Rocky Boy Police Department following complaints of police brutality, improper procedure and lost evidence, tribal officials said.
Bruce Sunchild, co-chair of the tribal council, said today the BIA delivered a preliminary report on the findings of its investigation last week. Sunchild refused to comment on the results of the report. He also declined to say whether the firings were related to the BIA's investigation.
Belcourt said the permanent layoffs would allow the tribe to save money because it can replace the officers with BIA personnel who are paid by the federal government, rather than the tribe.
Chippewa Cree Tribal Chairman Alvin Windy Boy Sr. in a press release that the firings were part of an effort to bring more effective leadership to the tribe.
"In many respects the decision was a difficult one," he said in the press release. "On the other hand, changes needed to be made and the department needed more efficient leadership."
Windy Boy, Morsette and Parker could not be reached for comment. Gardipee declined to comment.
The tribal council "decided to reorganize the law enforcement department and lay off the Chief of Police, the Criminal Investigtor, the Assistant Criminal Investigator and the Tribal Prosecutor to be effective immediately," the tribe's release said.
Sunchild said the tribe has not selected replacements for the four men, but he expects "it will be done shortly."
Tony Belcourt, a tribal council member, said the council had a responsibilty to act.
"We as elected officials need to make sure that basic governmental services such as law enforcement are delivered effectively to our tribal membership and if they aren't, we need to do something," he said.