Disappointed With Lack Of Accurate Reporting In Payson, Tribe Agreement Story

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Editor:

This letter is written in response to Mr. Pete Aleshire’s article in the Payson Roundup, dated Aug. 25 entitled, “No reservation now about police backup.”

We were surprised and disheartened to read the negative tone and lack of accurate reporting found in Mr. Aleshire’s article regarding the two Intergovernmental Agreements for mutual aid and assistance recently approved by the Tonto Apache Tribe and the Town of Payson.

As an initial matter, the article fails to recognize the “mutuality” component of these agreements, which provide important authority not only for the Town to provide mutual aid to the Tribe, but also for the Tribe to provide mutual aid to the Town. Under these agreements, mutual aid may come in the form of back up law enforcement with one police department providing back up to the other department, or it may be realized through the use of pooled resources and joint operations in response to serious emergencies or natural disasters that often show no regard for jurisdictional boundaries and threaten the health and safety of all of us who live in and visit the region.

In addition, Mr. Aleshire’s article presents a number of inaccuracies about the Tribe, as well as the course of negotiations between the Tribe and the Town that led up to the approval of these agreements.

For example, contrary to Mr. Aleshire’s reporting, the Tonto Apache Tribe has long maintained liability insurance for its casino and other Tribal operations, including insurance for its police and law enforcement officers. The existence of this insurance was not, as Mr. Aleshire suggests, in any way “key” to the approval of the agreement by either the Town or the Tribe. The reference to insurance in the agreement merely recognizes the fact that both parties have such insurance, and that both agree to maintain such insurance in the future.

Mr. Aleshire also incorrectly reports that these agreements were intended by the parties to put to rest a “long series of problems” between the Town and the Tribe stemming from a hit and run incident that occurred at the casino, and which, according to Mr. Aleshire, did not involve Payson police. Once again, these statements are inaccurate.

Both Payson police and Tribal police jointly responded to a call from the casino regarding a patron who was reported to be under the influence and causing a disturbance. According to reports published in the Payson Roundup (Aug. 18, 2005), then-Payson Chief of Police, Gordon Gartner, explained that the patron, Reed Hatch of Payson, was told by officers responding to the scene to leave the casino and he was escorted by police to a shuttle in order to get a ride home. Precisely how Mr. Hatch returned to his car and later tragically struck a young police cadet with his car is not known.

Again, according to Mr. Aleshire, the cadet was “run down” in the casino parking lot. In actuality this unfortunate accident occurred on Arizona state route 87.

These tragic events did not, however, result in a “long series of problems” between the Tribe and the Town as Mr. Aleshire reports. While Mr. Aleshire does not elaborate as to what the “long series of problems” are, he reports that the Town stopped providing police patrols on the Reservation under a law enforcement services agreement as a result of this incident, citing the purported existence of “too many risks” to Payson. Mr. Aleshire does not provide the source for this report.

Had Mr. Aleshire asked the Tribe for comment, however, the Tribe could have informed him that it was the Federal Bureau of Indian Affairs (and not the Town) that made the decision not to renew the agreement for police services.

Moreover, the decision was made by the BIA not because of the incident described by Aleshire, but because the Tribe had completed the necessary steps to provide its own law enforcement services on the Reservation through its Tribal police department, thereby freeing up the Town’s officers for purposes within Payson.

Finally, it should not be lost in all of this that the Tribe and Payson have continued over the years to discuss various ways of working together to protect their mutual interests in public safety, whether through dispatch services, law enforcement agreements, mutual training, and the like. The Tribe has also worked hard to establish its own Tribal Police Department for the Reservation and to make sure that its officers are certified by Arizona’s Peace Officer Standards and Training Board, just like other police in Arizona.

Under the terms of the new mutual aid agreements, these officers will now be available to provide mutual aid and back up to Payson law enforcement, and in exchange, Payson has agreed to back up Tribal police under certain circumstances.

Clearly, both the Tribe and the Town recognize the value in working together to protect the common interests of all people throughout the Payson region, regardless of jurisdictional boundaries.

Sadly, Mr. Aleshire’s article appears to be so intent on sowing inaccuracies and planting seeds of division between the Tribe and the Town that he has missed this point entirely.

Respectfully submitted,

Tonto Apache Tribal Council

Ivan Smith, Chairman

David K. Davis, Vice-Chairman

Vivian Burdette, Councilor

Calvin Johnson, Councilor

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