Law and Order Committee addresses the Diné Marriage Act, Navajo procurement, public safety

25th Navajo Nation Council Chairwoman of the Law and Order Committee shakes hands with a community member at the Tohatchi Chapter House.

25th Navajo Nation Council Chairwoman of the Law and Order Committee shakes hands with a community member at the Tohatchi Chapter House.

TOHATCHI, N.M. ­­– The Navajo Nation Council’s Law and Order Committee (LOC) held a regular committee meeting Aug. 28 at the Tohatchi Chapter House to hear two legislations and listen to the concerns of the community regarding public safety.

Officials from the Navajo Nation Police Department, Department of Public Safety and Department of Justice joined Chapter officials from Tohatchi at the meeting.

Legislation No. 0139-23, sponsored by Council Delegate Seth Damon (Baahaali, Chilchiltah, Manuelito, Red Rock, Rock Springs, Tsayatoh), seeks to repeal 9 N.N.C. § 2 (C) of the Diné Marriage Act of 2005, to uniformly recognize all marriages within the Navajo Nation and amend other provisions in Title 9 of the Navajo Nation Code related to marriage within the Navajo Nation.

Law and Order Committee Chair Eugenia Charles-Newton (Shiprock) motioned to move the legislation forward. In the absence of a seconding motion, the legislation still moves forward to the Budget and Finance Committee (BFC).

The committee also voted 2-0 in support of Legislation No. 0203-23, sponsored by Damon, amending the Navajo Nation Procurement Act and the Navajo Nation Business Opportunity Act. The legislation moves forward to the BFC, Naabik’iyati’ Committee and Navajo Nation Council for final consideration.

BFC chair and legislation co-sponsor Shaandiin Parrish (Chilchinbeto, Dennehotso, Kayenta) presented the bill and addressed questions from the attendees regarding the budgeting process. Parrish provided a brief overview including explanations on general funds, unmet needs, federal funds verses state, county, Fiscal Recovery Fund and ARPA funding.

A community member provided input regarding the procurement process as it relates to small business owners and the challenges of obtaining costly liability insurance in excess of over a million dollars.

Parrish said that proposed amendments to the Procurement Act and Navajo Nation Business Opportunity Act will provide equal representation between small business owners and corporations.

The Law and Order Committee also received concerns regarding safety issues within the community and surrounding areas.

Division of Public Safety (DPS) Executive Director Michael Anderson and Navajo Nation Chief of Police Daryl Noon addressed concerns regarding the excessive delays in response times, the need for additional officers throughout the Nation, E911 rural addressing, the need for police station substations, elimination of dispatch districting, and others.

Anderson said DPS is addressing E911 rural addressing and response times which he anticipates will improve within the next five years. Anderson advised that DPS will utilize available ARPA funding of $35 million dollars to implement an initiative to reduce DPS response times for agencies like law enforcement, EMS, and Fire and Rescue. DPS plans to have two main dispatch centers to service the Navajo Nation once infrastructure is implemented. The proposed facilities are planned for Kayenta, Ariz. and Yatahey, N.M.

Noon addressed the need for additional officers and cited challenges such as low interest in recruitment, uncompetitive wages, challenging background checks, and underqualified academy candidates. Noon stated there are currently 170-180 police officers to service the entire Navajo Nation, which does not provide adequate service to the Navajo people per capita.

“Dispatch and officers currently work within the territory there are assigned. We are trying to rid the imaginary boundary lines. The message we are pushing is just go and provide the service that the community expects. We can correct the administrative duties later,” Noon said.

Charles-Newton addressed the Committee and the 25th Navajo Nation Council’s efforts to obtain funding through the Tribal Interior Budget Council to address Navajo public safety needs. She stressed concerns over outdated Title 17 laws that hinder implementation of needs regarding law enforcement.

Information provided by the Navajo Nation Council.

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