PABLO — The CSKT Tribal Police is the beneficiary of a Department of Justice Community Orientated Police Service (COPS) grant that will help upgrade its communication system and replace some of its older fleet vehicles.
Tribal Police Department Captain Louie Fiddler said the grant was primarily used for upgrading the department’s communication system meant to, among other things, address the “dead spots” in the mobile communication infrastructure. To that end a new repeater will added to the recently erected Pistol Creek repeater station tower.
Tribal Police will also get 20 new mobile communication systems for police vehicles as well as 20 portable communication systems for police officers. The department has a 20-vehicle inventory.
“We have had spotty dispatch communication in our cars and none when we get out of our cars,” Fiddler said, adding that the “dead spots” in the Jocko Valley and in the Dixon-area have always been a problem for quick response in those areas. And that adds to the potential danger that officers might find themselves involved in at those areas. “This is just awesome for us. It’s hard to keep up with technology and this really helps with that.”
The Tribal Police Department is staffed by 21 officers. There are presently 19 on staff, and two new ones that will attend the Montana Police Academy in April and graduate in June. It takes about a year to get an officer hired, trained and on-duty as a certified police officer. That includes pre-academy in-house training where a potential officer can be assessed.
“It’s hard to find people who want to do this job. It’s a 24/7 commitment and people miss out on a lot of things over a career. It’s hard to keep up with the home life,” Fiddler said. “We’re pretty fortunate with the officers we have here. We’re family. Everyone who works here cares about their family and friends. Everyone here cares about the reservation family that we are a part of.”
This is the final year of the three-year COPS grant but due to COVID-19 effects this past year the Tribal Police didn’t get the four new police vehicles it ordered last year. In December the Tribal Police ordered eight police vehicles, and were told it would be from eight to 12 weeks before they would get them. So that could be anytime now.
“Our older vehicles require a lot of maintenance and there becomes a time when that is not cost effective,” Fiddler said. “We are due for the new replacements.”
Fiddler said the new vehicles will be the same make and model as the older ones — Dodge Chargers and Dodge pickup trucks —so the specific police vehicle hardware such as lights and cages can be switched from the older vehicles to the new ones.
“We trade in the old ones but we strip everything off of them that we can use on the new cars,” Fiddler said. “We are very grateful for grants. Without them it’s hard. The last two years we’ve had the COPS grant and good funding from the administration We feel like we have pretty strong support.
The police vehicles will also have the latest camera technology in them.
“We finally got cameras in our cars, ten years after the rest of the world,” Fiddler said. “Then we got our body cameras five years after everyone else. We’re still behind the curve on that though.”
Thankfully, the curve is straightening with the COPS grant and funding from CSKT administration.