In addition to protecting the residents of the Tulalip Tribes, police officials spent considerable effort reaching out to the community and continue to build trust.
Chris Sutter, chief of the Tulalip Tribal Police, said “2020 was a very productive year for us." The department reviewed it’s use-of-force, domestic violence and pursuit procedures to ensure they are consistent with industry best practices. He also highlighted the de-escalation training officers have also received, which he said is a paradigm shift in law enforcement.
“We will continue to include de-escalation in our training as much as possible,” Sutter said.
The Tulalip Tribal Police also participate in a citizen advisory review board.
“I seek their recommendations as an independent review board.”
Prior to the pandemic, the Tulalip Tribal Police held neighborhood meetings and Sutter is looking forward to organizing more meetings once the pandemic concludes.
“I really value that community connection,” Sutter said. He added such community contact is an important part of the department’s police service. “We really get to know the families we serve.”
Sutter said the coronavirus pandemic affected the way the department serves the community. Officers had to adjust the way they responded to calls and maintain social distancing requirements. Because of the pandemic, officers saw crime reduced in retail areas.
He noted the Tulalip Tribes lost several tribal members to COVID-19.
“Tribal police is always mindful of those who lost loved ones due to COVID,” Sutter said.
Hiring is a priority for the department that has 36 officers, 18 civilian employees and five student officers who are being trained at the United States Indian Police Academy in New Mexico, Sutter said. Sixteen people were hired in 2020 including eight new officers who were sworn in and four more scheduled when it’s safe to do so.
Sutter said he is focused on hiring more tribal members to be more reflective of the community the department serves. The department will continue to recruit and find qualified police officers who are service-minded and dedicated.
The Tulalip Tribal Police Department, in cooperation with the Tulalip Tribal Court, started a law enforcement embedded social worker program. Social workers and police officers work together to get people on the path of healing and wellness, Sutter said.
The Tulalip Tribal Police continue efforts to slow and stop the distribution of illegal drugs through the Tulalip Tribes. Sutter said the majority of transporters and dealers are non-natives. Officers are also equipped with Narcan, which can stop an opioid overdose.
“We’re doing all we can to reduce illicit narcotic distribution onto the Tulalip Tribes,” Sutter said.
The Tulalip Tribal Police also have a Fish and Wildlife Division that patrols fishing and hunting areas established by the Treaty of Port Elliott of 1855, according to the Tulalip Tribal Police website. Officers patrol an area that extends from the south Puget Sound to the San Juan Islands, Blaine to the Canadian border.
Sutter said the Fish and Wildlife Division serves and protects tribal fishermen and hunters. Other duties include enforcement of tribal codes, animal control, environmental protection and enforcement, assistance to Tribal fisherman and water search and rescue operations, according to the Tulalip Tribal Police website.
Tulalip Tribal Police employees continue to mourn the death of Charlie Cortez, a Fish and Wildlife officer who perished in November after the boat he was on capsized, Sutter said.
“We still mourn his loss,” Sutter said. “We’re holding out hope that we can bring him home to his family.”