Inmates, officials decry aging police building

Inmates, officials decry aging police building

Navajo Times | Donovan Quintero
A person walks into the front entrance of the aging Navajo Nation judicial branch and Department of Police building Wednesday.

Navajo Times | Donovan Quintero
Visitors stand in line at the Window Rock Detention Center in Window Rock on Wednesday.


According to the Navajo Nation Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Facilities Maintenance Department, the Window Rock Police Department building is old and unsafe.

According to the Navajo Nation president’s office’s Facebook page, the police department found out about a gas leak at their facility on Friday, May 12, during Navajo Law Day.

Former inmate Phillip Michael Martin said he experienced what he believes is carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning while detained at the detention center. He spit out saliva that, he said, tasted like toxins.

“You can’t see it or smell it,” said Martin.

He said some inmates vomited and got sick. Signs of CO poisoning include headaches, fatigue, dizziness, drowsiness, nausea, chest pains, vomiting, confusion and collapse, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

Marcus Tulley, department manager for Facility Maintenance, said the building did have a CO leak. The fire department did a permissible exposure limit test and it came out positive for the gas.

“We installed CO detectors, fixed the leaks,” said Tulley.

He said a service engineer came out five years ago and told the department they need to update their facilities because the buildings are deteriorating. The police department and detention center are currently open after Facility Maintenance secured the gas leak.

But Tulley said the Navajo Nation does not have any new facilities for the police department.

“The building is old and starting to decay, it’s time for a new one,” Tulley said.

According to NOSHA, the life expectancy of buildings owned by the Navajo Nation is around 40 years and mobile office units last 20 to 25 years. The Window Rock facility was built in the early 1970s, according to NNOSHA, over 40 years ago.

On May 19, a week after finding out about the leak, Martin said the police transferred 38 male inmates to Kayenta and 13 female inmates were sent to Crownpoint. Navajo Police confirmed this and said public intoxicants were sent to Shiprock as part of the process.

Martin said he wants to file a lawsuit against the Navajo Police due to fears for his health.

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