From left, Lander Police Chief Jim Carey and Eastern Shoshone Council Chairman Darwin St. Clair Jr. address the Lander City Council. Joshua Scheer photo.
UPDATED for clarification: If CB&T closes its Fort Washakie Branch when the checks come, it will only be temporarily, not permanently.
(Lander, Wyo.) – Lander Police Chief Jim Carey clarified this evening that the security measures he’s putting in place for large upcoming settlement payments to Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho Tribal Members are first and foremost for the check holders’ safety.
The announcement that plans were being put in place to bolster law enforcement presence when the checks arrive originally garnered concerns of racial profiling. But after comments at tonight’s Lander City Council meeting from Carey, Eastern Shoshone Council Chairman Darwin St. Clair Jr., local banks, and a number of tribal members, everyone agreed that the biggest concern was for the tribal elders who could fall victim to robbery, fraud or other crimes.
“Our number one concern is for the safety of our tribal members who choose to live and do business in Lander,” Carey said in a brief statement. The second largest concern he said is the possibility of organized crime attempting to rob local businesses.
“This is about preventing violent crime and protecting our citizens,” Carey said, adding that he was offended by some of the comments made on County10.com.
Atlantic City Federal Credit Union President Brian Rohrbacher, Wyoming Community Bank President Scott Estep and Central Bank & Trust Chief Financial Officer Frank Smith all echoed Carey’s sentiments. Smith noted that the settlement payments could likely total more than $100 million coming to Fremont County and that his concern is not with people from inside Fremont County causing crime, but rather crime finding its way here because of the money.
St. Clair said he was initially concerned by what he heard about the security measures but was reassured that it was for the safety of everyone. He was afraid city courts would be attempting to make more money off his people by police writing more citations. Carey assured him that was not the case, noting he turned down a Highway Safety grant to help fund the overtime because it required a certain amount of citations to be written.
St. Clair said that he, too, was concerned about the unwanted types of people the money could bring in. “It does make me nervous,” he said. “It is a large sum of money.”
No one knows for certain when the settlements will be distributed, but word has been circling that they could come in the next couple months.
Mayor Mick Wolfe said he was concerned about the grandmother on the reservation who could be coming to town to cash checks for multiple family members, not having a bank account, and potentially leaving with tens of thousands of dollars in her pockets. “We want to make sure she at least makes it home with that,” Wolfe said. “We’re not targeting anybody.”
Several people who spoke were concerned about law enforcement coming from elsewhere in the state to help because they might not be as culturally aware. On tonight’s agenda, after the lengthy discussion, were memorandums of understanding with the Green River and Jackson Police Departments for two officers’ each to come help. Most of the crowd had left when the item was up for discussion, but Carey said the agreement allows him to handpick officers from both departments and that they will act in more of a supporting role to LPD rather than acting on their own. The agreements were unanimously approved.
Other than those agreements, no strategic law enforcement plans were discussed. However, Carey said plans have been in the works since October 2013 and that the governor and other officials were advised of the plans, which also involve other area law enforcement agencies.
Shawna Crispin thanked Lander for addressing the security issues and for the discussions of the evening, which lasted more than an hour. “I wish Riverton would do this just to get information out there,” she said.
Crispin, Colleen SunRhodes Addison and Melinda Friday all said they were disappointed that none of the Northern Arapaho Business Council came to the meeting. Addison said she understands the fear of prejudice that some had raised, saying that times hadn’t changed since she was growing up. Friday said she too was concerned for the safety of the elders and of unnecessary law enforcement activity.
Jolene Catron, a non-enrolled member, said she had experienced racial profiling and asked that officials think outside of the box as they look into security measures.
There was also much discussion surrounding education for the settlement recipients about how they can access their money. St. Clair said the Eastern Shoshone Tribe has encouraged its members to get bank accounts to keep the money in and to use the money responsibly. The banking officials present said that customers with accounts at the banks will receive first priority. They also said that even combined and with adequate preparation there would be no way for all of the money to be available in cash. Several of the tribal members who spoke encouraged the banks to begin spreading information on social media, letting people know what they need to do to open an account ahead of time and what they should be aware of if they don’t have an account.
Frank Smith also addressed why CB&T may be temporarily closing its Fort Washakie branch when the checks come. For insurance purposes, banks are only allowed to keep so much cash on hand at one time, he said. “Within five checks all the money in our branch would be gone,” he said. Additionally, there are no armored car services between Lander and Fort Washakie, he said, which puts bank employees transporting cash to the branch at a high risk for robbery. Smith said he wished there were a way it could be open.