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'You meet that challenge': Navajo police force recognized for service

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times
Navajo Police Officer Danielle Murdock holds a flag on May 10 that lists the names of Navajo police officers who died in the line of duty.

SHIPROCK — The contribution of Navajo Nation police officers to communities on tribal land was recognized by personnel from the Shiprock Police District as part of Navajo Nation Police Officer Day on May 10.

The tribal holiday takes place on the second Friday in May. It was declared in October 2017 through legislation passed by the Navajo Nation Council.

There are 35 officers in the Shiprock district, an area that goes as far south as Naschitti, north to the New Mexico-Colorado state line, east to Upper Fruitland and west into Arizona and Utah.

Navajo Police Lt. Rory Atcitty said officers address situations daily while meeting the expectations of department supervisors to be up to date on laws, policies and tactics.

"The work they do is challenging and it is difficult. They do operate in a complex area of multiple jurisdictions and it is not easy, but they do a remarkable job," Atcitty said.

A motorcycle ride to remember the officers who died in the line of duty coincided with the holiday.

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Participants in the Navajo Nation Police Honor Ride get ready to leave the Shiprock Police Department on May 10. The honor ride started on May 9 and will visit all of the tribe's police departments before ending in Window Rock, Ariz.

The ride was organized by Navajo Police Capt. Dempsey Harvey, commander of the department's western area.

The group started on May 9 in Thoreau then traveled to police districts in the Eastern, Fort Defiance and Western agencies.

They stopped in Shiprock then proceeded to the Central Agency and will end in Window Rock, Arizona late May 10.

Traveling with the group is a memorial flag that lists 15 names of fallen officers and it serves as a symbolic representation that each one is not forgotten, according to the department.

"I want to thank everyone for coming out to celebrate, honor and appreciate our Navajo Nation police officers, also to remember and honor our fallen officers, our fallen warriors," Atcitty said then acknowledged Officer Alex Yazzie, who was killed after responding to a call involving domestic violence in March 2015.

Navajo Police Capt. Dempsey Harvey puts on his helmet before participating in the Navajo Nation Police Honor Ride on May 10 in Shiprock.

"He was a great friend and an outstanding officer. We miss him daily," Atcitty said.

Yazzie wife, Marenda Yazzie, sat nearby. She later received a wreath in honor of her husband from department personnel.

Navajo Police Deputy Chief Daryl Noon spoke about efforts to improve the department, including increasing the number of officers.

The land size of the Navajo Nation does not stop officers from responding to situations each day, Noon said.

"It's a challenge. I'm honored that you meet that challenge every day and I'm proud of you," he said.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at nsmith@daily-times.com.