POLACCA, Ariz. - A law enforcement task force team, including the Hopi Police, carried out the first drug bust in a couple of years on the Hopi Reservation. The bust resulted in two arrests and the seizure of drugs.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark Aspey issued five federal search warrants. The task force executed three search warrants in the First Mesa area and two search warrants in the Shungopavi area. The task force included the Bureau of Indian Affairs Division of Drug Enforcement, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, FBI, High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Officers and BIA Hopi Police Agency.
The task force team seized approximately 808 grams of marijuana, 15,521 grams of alcohol and other paraphernalia.
Two Hopi tribal members were arrested.
Hopi Police Chief Jamie Kootswatewa said the arrests are meant to send a message to bootleggers that the police are coming after them. Kootswatewa said the arrests and seizures are the result of an investigation that took several months.
"We've received several complaints, but we face challenges because everybody knows the officers," he said.
Kootswatewa said the two suspects will be tried in federal court for transporting and distributing alcohol and illegal substances. He said if the suspects are found guilty, after the first offense, the crime could be a felony.
Kootswatewa said the Hopi police initiated this drug and alcohol investigation and will continue with similar operations.
"We will continue to proactively deter illegal sales of alcohol and narcotics through undercover and intelligence gathering," he said. "The public's eyes and ears are important because they may see the tactics of the people selling."
Kootswatewa said the Hopi community wants the bootlegging and sales of drugs to stop.
"We want to get drugs and alcohol off the reservation. We want to send a strong message that it won't be worth it to sell on the Hopi Reservation," he said.
Kootswatewa said the sentence for selling drugs or alcohol can vary depending on whether it's a first offense, what is sold and the amount of what is sold. The sentence can range from probation to being sent to federal prison. If a convict is sent to federal prison, he or she can be sent anywhere in the U.S.
Kootswatewa said growing up he didn't like police because his father had problems with alcohol, but he learned that police can be in a position to save lives. He comes from the Sunforehead Clan, which are known to be protectors of people. Kootswatewa said being a police officer can mean helping an injured person with CPR, including those injured from car wrecks.
Kootswatewa emphasized that drunk driving is a serious crime because it can hurt or kill somebody's grandparents, parents or children.
"Why are people still drinking and driving?" he asked.
Kootswatewa said there have also been several stabbings on the Hopi Reservation due to drinking or drug use.
Kootswatewa said he became a police officer because he asked himself how he could have a meaningful life. His answer: by saving others.
He urged youth to go into police work. Those 21 or older can attend the police academy. Applicants can be 20 when they enter the academy as long as they will be 21 when they graduate. The police academy takes about four months to complete. Applicants must have either a high school diploma or a General Equivalency Diploma.
He said Hopi police officers' salaries start at approximately $40,000 per year and they will get raises each of the first three years. He said with the help of overtime, beginning Hopi police officers often make about $60,000 per year.
The Hopi Police Department put on a canned food and clothing drive for the holiday season.
"When we patrol, we see the elders and not all families take care of them. There are also a lot of broken families and kids without shoes. We want to help as many as we can," he said. "Our job is to help those who can't help themselves."
Donations of canned food or clothing, old or new, can be dropped off at the Hopi Police Department. There are also boxes for donations at the Hopi Health Care Center and the Legacy Inn in Moenkopi.