WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — On Aug. 18, during a Law and Order Committee (LOC) hearing for the 2017 fiscal year budget, members issued a directive to increase the salary for law enforcement officers of the Nation to the proposed medium pay scale.
“The Nation’s law enforcement officers are earning very low pay. Compared to other tribes and other state and county officers, the Nation’s officers are making pennies. I support the initiative to increase salary pay because they worked vigorously to keep individuals, families, and communities safe. They are underpaid and overworked. The Nation needs to invest in our law enforcement officers,” said Kee Allen Begay, Jr., LOC council delegate member (Low Mountain, Many Farms, Nazlini, Tachee/Blue Gap, Tselani/Cottonwood).
On Aug. 22, the committee received an updated report from the Navajo Nation Office of Management and Budget’s Contracts and Grants section and the Navajo Nation Division of Public Safety, for funding from the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) for public safety in regards to salary increases for Navajo Nation law enforcement officers.
According to NNDPS, executive director Jesse Delmar, carryover funds from the 638 Contract would be utilized for the pay increases.
“The purpose of the meeting is to get clarification from all participating parties if pay raises for the officer is possible. Can the 638 Contract cover the total cost for the raises? If so, when can officers expect a pay raise and how can NNDPS and LOC prepare for the pay raise change?” said Edmund Yazzie, LOC council delegate (Churchrock, Iyanbito, Mariano Lake, Pinedale, Smith Lake, Thoreau).
OMB contracting officer Cordell Shortey said the 638 Contract funding can be utilized for the pay raises and used only if the money is used for the same purpose that it was intended for.
Speaker LoRenzo Bates (Nenahnezad, Newcomb, San Juan, Tiis Tsoh Sikaad, Tse’Daa’Kaan, Upper Fruitland) said that the medium pay raises for the law enforcement officers would be an recurring expense in the NNDPS annual budget and questioned if NNDPS had a plan in place to sustain the funding level.
“The raises will be a recurring expense and we need to take this into account because what if the 638 funding can’t cover the cost in a few years. Does NNDPS have a plan to address this issue if it arises? To cover the cost, will the Nation’s general fund be used or will the Nation advocate for more funding from the federal government?” he said.
Delegate Begay, who sits on the Tribal Interior Budget Council at the national level, said the 638 Contract funding is not definite and it can be revisited based on the Nation’s needs, such as addressing the pay raises for law enforcements officers and other public safety personnel.
Delmar said the pay raises for law enforcement officers would cost around $5 million a year.
“This initiative is possible and LOC will continue to support to give the Nation’s police officers a fair pay for the long hours and huge responsibilities they carry everyday while on duty,” said Otto Tso, LOC Council Delegate (Tó Nanees Dizi).