Delegates pass bill to hire Navajo police chief

Noel Lyn Smith
A Navajo Police Department vehicle and mobile command center is pictured on May 5 at the Shiprock Police Department.

FARMINGTON — A Navajo Nation Council standing committee has set July 13 as the deadline for hiring a chief of police for the Navajo Police Department.

Delegate Edmund Yazzie, who serves as the Law and Order Committee chairman, said today that the committee approved a bill that directs tribal President Russell Begaye and Jesse Delmar, executive director of the Division of Public Safety, to "promptly" hire a police chief within 30 days.

Committee members approved the bill 4-0 on Monday, agreeing it is a "tool" to help the executive branch fill the vacancy, said Yazzie, who sponsored the bill.

Delegate Raymond Smith, the committee vice chair, signed the resolution today.

"We do need a chief of police. It's imperative that we get one," Smith said.

It has been about 10 years since a chief of police supervised the department, Yazzie said.

Jesse Delmar, director of the Navajo Division of Public Safety, speaks to San Juan County Commissioners on March 1 at the county administration building in Aztec.

Calls to name a police chief gained momentum after the March 2015 fatal shooting of Navajo police officer Alex Yazzie and the kidnapping and death of 11-year-old Ashlynne Mike last month, said Edmund Yazzie.

"We heard from the officers there was no solid direction in how to handle that," he said about the Amber Alert that was issued hours after Mike's disappearance.

When asked why it has taken months for the committee, which oversees the division, to address the police chief issue, Yazzie said the previous committee talked about the vacancy, but the former division executive director did not meet with committee members.

Yazzie said he will keep in contact with Delmar about progress to fill the position.

Delmar was unavailable for comment today because he is out of the office until Friday, according to his office in Window Rock, Ariz.

Both Yazzie and Smith said the executive director did not oppose the legislation, and a signed copy will be submitted to his office.

Yazzie added he will request a meeting to discuss the legislation between the committee and President Begaye.

A spokesman for the Office of the President and Vice President did not respond to a request for comment.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636.