Amber Alert hung up on paperwork glitch

WINDOW ROCK

The legwork to implement the Amber Alert and the 911 systems for the Navajo Nation is ready to go. It just needs the money to kick-start it.

Marchers walk downroad carring banners.

Navajo Times | File
Navajos demonstrate for an Amber Alert system in this October 2016 photo.

That’s what Emergency Services Coordinator Harlan Cleveland and Division of Public Safety Director Jesse Delmar said on Wednesday. The agreement with the Integrated Public Alert Warning System, or IPAWS, is in place, but due to an error in transferring the funding, the system was not added to the new fiscal year budget.

IPAWS is the system responsible for merging the country’s emergency alert system, the national warning system, the wireless emergency alerts and the NOAA weather radio into a single program.

“We are trying to get that corrected,” said Delmar. “We know how much is there, we don’t know where it went when the transfer took place.”

Plans to implement a 911 system began in 2008 when the 21st Navajo Nation Council approved a memorandum of understanding between the tribe and San Juan County Communication Authority. The MOU would have allowed New Mexico to fund the 911 landline system and wireless service on parts of the reservation situated within San Juan County. All 14 Northern Agency chapters supported the pact, which was signed by then-president Ben Shelly and San Juan County Communications Director George Duncan.

After it was approved, a 911 committee was appointed, comprised of Navajo Nation Public Safety Director John Billison, Police Lt. Leonard Redhorse, and Capt. Ivan Tsosie, Shirley Sanisya and Cornelia L. Begay, who were all attached to the Shiprock Police District at the time, according to a 36-page Navajo Nation Enhanced 9-1-1 Service Plan dated 2014.

The plan estimated $160,000 would be needed to fund the system, which was requested in the 2014-15 fiscal budget.

However, the system never got off the ground. Instead Billison was accused of mishandling the allocated money when he allegedly gave large bonuses to certain staff members within his department. He was never formally charged.


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