Chemawa Indian School SRO resource officers stop by Flathead
By B.L. Azure
Marion County Sheriff’s Office Deputies Heath Nelson, Tyler Chapman and
Steve Polanski, School Resource Officers at Chemawa Indian School in
Salem, Oregon, visit with CSKT Law Enforcement Officer Orsino Walker
during a recent stop on the Flathead Indian Reservation. (B.L. Azure
PABLO — A trio of law enforcement officers from
Salem, Oregon stopped by the CSKT Law Enforcement office recently on a
stop in their tour of Indian reservations in Montana recently. Marion
County Deputies Heath Nelson, Tyler Chapman and Steve Polanski are
School Resource Officers at the Chemawa Indian School, an Indian
boarding school in Salem. They were being shown around the tribal
complex by Rob McDonald, Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes
According to Polanski, the SROs at Chemawa take
time each summer to visit the Indian reservations the Chemawa students
come from. They go to a different area or state each year in an attempt
to learn more about the environment of the students.
"It is a very good opportunity to talk to their
parents, to learn more about the tribes the kids belong to and get a
feel of their influences," Polanski said.
Nelson said the Marion County Sheriff's Office
have a unique relationship with the federal government so that it can
enforce law on federal property. "Five years ago they (Chemawa)
contacted us about us providing our services to them," he said. "We had
to pass a FBI background check to get a clearance to do this."
The partnership helps stretch thinning resources.
"We help by getting smaller offenses tried in
local courts," Polanski said, adding that it actually took an act of
Congress to allow local law enforcement authority on federal property.
Nelson said that law enforcement at Chemawa isn't
what would be called traditional type. School Resource Officers don't
just interact with students in times of trouble. They are involved in
activities and programs that foster positive relationships between the
students and law enforcement.
"We started a media production program called 3700
Productions where we partner with the kids who learn how to produce
photo and video productions," Nelson said. "Next year we will be
producing a TV program that will be broadcast every Friday."
Polanski, an outdoor enthusiast, trained students
for outdoor adventures camping, an approach that goes beyond hot dogs
over an open fire and camp songs. They are tests of a person's ability
to adapt the rigors found in the outdoors.
The trio agreed that gang activity, no matter how
innocuous it may appear, is a problem on Indian reservations.
"All gang members start out as wannabes," Nelson
said. "Some of the students at Chemawa are active gang members on their
reservations even though gangs go against all traditional values of
They said that gangs are like viruses.
"Sometimes small groups of gang members come to
Indian reservations recruiting," Nelson said. "Other times a
reservation kid goes to the city and comes back with a gang member to
recruit others or he comes alone to recruit."
They all agreed gangs are a local community
problem and it was up to the community to address the issue. One of the
first things a community should do, they said was to clean up gang
graffiti immediately. It is a sure sign of gang wannabes.