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New Navajo Nation police chief wants to hire more officers

Report: Department must double in size to properly cover the reservation
Daryl Noon was sworn in as chief of police for the Navajo Nation on Jan. 3. (Courtesy of Indian Country Today)

Daryl Noon was sworn in as the new chief of police for one of the largest Indigenous police departments in the country, the Navajo Nation.

Noon previously served as the deputy chief under his predecessor, Phillip Francisco, who started in 2016. Under Francisco, Navajo Police saw the re-establishment of the police academy, the hiring of dozens of new officers and increasing salaries.

Francisco announced he was leaving Navajo Police to spend more time with his family in late November. He will be the police chief for the Bloomfield Police Department in northwestern New Mexico. This comes after years of tension between Francisco and the Navajo Nation Council’s Law and Order committee that has legislative oversight over the department. In 2019, Francisco even laid his badge on the table after a heated exchange between him and the delegates over the handling of a criminal case.

The hostility festered all the way to the end.

Delegate Eugenia Charles-Newton, chairwoman of the Law and Order committee, said in a news release, “The Division of Public Safety has major internal issues (that) need to address and a federal audit investigation continues to hinder their ability to apply for new federal funding to support our officers. Chief Phillip Franciso does not understand the importance of keeping lines of communication open and he would rather speak to news reporters to get his points across.”

Francisco told several outlets that the red tape and bureaucracy within the Navajo Nation was partially why he was leaving. Despite all of this, Noon decided to heed the call when asked by Jesse Delmar, the Navajo Division of Public Safety director, to take over leadership.

“I’m open and willing to work with anybody,” Noon said. “We have an open invitation to all the delegates to come talk to us whenever they have issues or concerns. Some have come and talked to us. Some have not.”

Under his leadership, Noon would like to see the police department recruit and retain more police officers. According to a recent report, the department is severely understaffed and would need to double in size to cover the 27,000 square miles of the Navajo Nation. The tribal nation spans across three states: Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. The report says the department needs at least 500 officers.

“We’re really focused on the academy and getting people onboarded,” Noon said. “We’re looking at changing some things up to maybe start a police transition position. So that we can hire people as young as 18.”

The police transition position would look much like community service aide positions that are prevalent in other police departments that border the Navajo Nation. They could respond to non-injury accidents and take in phone reports. This would relieve some pressure on officers. They would also like to do this through the Department of Corrections, which can hire as young as 19.

“If we could hire people through corrections and get people familiar with the government and how things work, get them used to working with the people they’re going to work with, and then when they become 21, they go to the academy,” Noon said. “They’re already here. They’ve already got experience.”

He would also like to see the establishment of facilities to help people with drug and alcohol addictions that are located on the Navajo Nation. An example he gave was the Sobering Center in Farmington.

“We can’t go out and just keep arresting the same people over and over again,” he said.

While the Jan. 3 ceremony was all about him being sworn into his new position, Noon doesn’t see the chief of police position as being about him. It’s about the team of people who are involved in public safety initiatives.

“It’s going to take a lot of hard work, but I think we’ve surrounded ourselves with a really progressive, motivated, command staff who all want the same thing,” he said.

It was because of them that Noon decided to serve as police chief.

“That was my motivation to step up and continue,” he said. “It makes me proud to know that I’m leading a great bunch of men and women warriors that are truly dedicated to their communities.”

Jesse Delmar said Noon was a clear choice for the position because of his experience.

“We didn’t really have to make another search, throughout the country, since we had a next man in line here who was equally qualified to do this job,” Delmar said. “I've seen his work product, how he worked and what he's doing.”

Emmett Yazzie, a police captain who oversees the professional standards division, is confident in Noon’s ability to lead the department and continue moving it forward.

“I think that his vision is parallel to how Chief Francisco was,” Yazzie said. “So I know both of them are very progressive and revolutionary as far as moving the department forward. Both of them have brought stability.”

From 2008 to 2016, the department had no police chief and was in flux. The department went from one acting chief to the next. That was until Francisco took over and now Noon will be taking over after three years as deputy chief. This is what a continuity plan looks like, said Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez.

“Just as our prayers were answered with Chief Francisco, our prayers have once again been answered with Mr. Noon,” Nez said during the swearing-in ceremony. “We know there are many challenges ahead but we are fully confident that Mr. Noon’s experience and background will help lead our front-line warriors to many more great accomplishments and increase the safety of our communities.”

Indian Country Today is a nonprofit news organization that covers the Indigenous world with a daily digital platform and weekday broadcast with international viewership.

To read more stories from Indian Country Today, visit www.indiancountrytoday.com.