As the pandemic continues and efforts in Blackfeet Country increase to contain the spread of the virus, Compliance Officers are becoming more important. “Compliance Officers are the enforcement arm of the Blackfeet Tribe for civil matters,” said Blackfeet Revenue Director Kim Boy. “If it’s criminal, law enforcement takes over and we step away.”
All the Compliance Officers are trained law enforcement personnel whose names will no doubt be familiar to residents of the Blackfeet Reservation. To date, they include Josh Bird, Matthew Augare, Kathy Webber, Henry Devereaux, Terry Whitcomb, Joe Weatherwax, Ken Bird Rattler, Mark Devereaux and Kevin Racine.
Some of their duties and responsibilities include monitoring business operations on the reservation, conducting regular field visits to businesses and people, and investigating complaints of non-compliance among businesses and people. All these duties come in addition to their regular police duties of patrolling and responding to calls from Dispatch.
While Kim Boy said most such complaints are received by Dispatch, she also receives some calls herself, to which her department follows up. Having Compliance Officers who are already trained in law enforcement is a plus, she said, since they already know how to deescalate situations and have proper knowledge of citations and legal procedures. Some of the skills required of a Compliance Officer include being capable of critical thinking and being detail oriented because the differences between intentional non-compliance versus innocent rule breaking are often slight. “Law enforcement training helps because I rely on their discretion and their ethical standards,” Boy said.
The first Compliance Officer was hired last May, with their numbers growing to nine at present. “In all my years of school and college, I never imagined that my job would entail public safety,” Boy said.
As far as penalties for non-compliance are concerned, Boy notes that while the Tribal Council creates the penalty structure, she is also empowered to issue administrative orders against businesses, Such penalties are generally stiffer than individual penalties, she said.
On the roads, violations of the curfew. have resulted in fewer than 50 citations, Boy said. Folks who must be out during curfew have largely been issued essential workers’ tags for their vehicles, for which the Tribe has ceased to charge a fee. Boy said the tags were initially created to cover folks who work on the reservation, but live off the reservation. But this month many more folks need them because of the curfew and the stay-at-home order.
Public Information Officer James McNeely said the team from the Centers for Disease Control is still on-site and will remain here for another two weeks, supplemented by a new team due on Oct. 28. They will help the Community Health Nurses and will also be collecting data.
He noted the Tribal Council gave Incident Command the authority to decide on phased planning, details of which appear in this week’s Glacier Reporter. Among the changes is a change of the curfew, now beginning at 8 p.m. and lasting until 6 a.m., and extending the stay-at-home order until Nov. 8 at 11:59 p.m.
Some of the contact numbers have also changed. Folks needing food, supplies and wood should call 338-2946 or 338-2231 while medical supplies may be had at 338-6304.
The Blackfeet Care Center is also reporting that all its residents have met the criteria to come out of isolation and have recovered while three staff members remain in quarantine. As of Sunday, Oct. 25, McNeely said there were 186 active cases on the reservation with 29 people in hospital. Two, he said, are on ventilators in Great Falls and Kalispell. As of Monday morning, Oct. 26, the total number of deaths rose to 18, with two more recorded over the weekend.
While the number of active cases appears to be on a plateau, he said the additional fatalities are disturbing. He said health professionals at the Indian Health Service are renewing their urging people to wear masks, socially distance and avoid crowded situations.
For information or questions about compliance orders, folks may contact Kim Boy at firstname.lastname@example.org.