WINDOW ROCK -- There's now another President Shirley who wants to clean up a big problem on the Navajo Nation.
On June 14, Navajo police sergeants and officers from the five Navajo Nation police districts elected First Lady Vikki Shirley as President of the newly-created Navajo Nation MADD DUI Task Force.
It was a logical choice. Vikki Shirley is the Navajo MADD Chapter president and has been involved with the national Mothers Against Drunk Drivers organization since she and Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley Jr. lost a daughter to a drunk driver in 2001.
"We don't want it to ever happen to anyone else, for anyone to go through what we had to," the First Lady told the officers who gathered in her office for the Task Force1s first planning meeting. "Even if we save just one life, this Task Force will have done its job."
Vikki Shirley explained that MADD1s focus it to rid Navajo highways and roadways of drunk driving and to prevent underage drinking. This will become
the focus of the new task force as well.
The Navajo Nation MADD Chapter will encompass the entire Navajo Nation
beginning July 1, she said.
In considering who among them should head the Task Force, Tuba City NPD
Officer Ron Brown told Shirley, "Who better to crack the whip than you? When you speak, people will listen."
The seven charter members then unanimously elected the First Lady as President of the Task Force. Bessie Yellowhair-Simpson, her staff assistant, was elected Vice President.
Sgt. Emerson Lee of the Dilkon Police District recommended that meetings occur weekly, which was adopted.
"I have people dying out there," he said.
Among the short-term goals established by the new DUI Task Force will be to ascertain the kinds of resources, training, funding, services and statistics that are available, and which other organizations are working on the same objectives.
"We have a big problem with alcohol, especially with the young people," said
Francine Bradley of the Kayenta District. "We need to get that information out."
She said that over the past 15 years, she1s seen a transition from 12-ounce beer bottles littering the roads and being confiscated to 40-ounce malt liquor bottles.
She said the Navajo Nation urgently needs to change and update its laws to reflect the change in habits among alcohol abusers trashing the Navajo highways, driving without mandatory insurance and putting others1 lives at risk on a daily basis.
"We can beat this like a dead horse, but we need to change these laws," added Officer Brown.
The officers said it is often the Navajo police who are blamed for the alcohol-related problems of DUI, assaults and breaking-and-entering that afflict Navajoland. But the reality is the problem is spread among prosecutors who are unable to bring perpetrators to justice, lack of jail space to hold offenders and even the Navajo courts who don1t apply the full measure of law against lawbreakers.
A big problem, they concurred, was a weakness in the Navajo law.
The officers urged that chapter residents tell their Navajo Nation Council delegates about changes needed to have Navajo criminal laws strengthened and made more effective.
One of the things police officers are concerned about, they said, is that many Navajo Nation lawmakers won1t listen to them and take appropriate action.
For more information about the Navajo Nation MADD DUI Task Force, or to volunteer, call the Office of the First Lady at 928-871-7008
(George Hardeen is Navajo Nation Communications Director.)