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CRIT Names Armstrong New Chief of Police
First Goal: More Officers, Proactive Policing
In 2005, two years before he was elected to the CRIT Tribal Council, Richard Marvin Armstrong retired as the Bureau of Indian Affairs Special Agent in Charge for the Plains Region in South Dakota, capping a 30-year career in law enforcement.
It turned out to be a short retirement.
The veteran lawman-turned-community leader was appointed and sworn in as Chief of the CRIT tribal police department on Aug. 31, ending a long nationwide search. The department had been without a permanent leadership since late February when then Police Chief Ken Schwab retired. Schwab served as chief a total of seven years over two different terms.
“I have no doubts that Chief Armstrong will make our police department stronger than it’s ever been, which will in turn make our community safer and more secure,” said CRIT Tribal Chairman Daniel Eddy Jr. “With Chief Armstrong’s long and distinguished background in law enforcement, and his deep roots in the community, he was clearly the best choice.”
Armstrong said he applied for the position after earlier searches did not produce a suitable candidate. He inherits a department that, because of attrition, is only at about half strength, a problem he hopes to correct quickly.
“The police department was having a tough time because there was no leadership,” Armstrong said. “I thought this was a time that I can be of help, so that’s the reason I put my hat in the ring.”
Although he does not predict an overnight transformation, Armstrong would like to see his force of 15 - nine of whom are patrol officers - double in order to best perform its duties.
“The first big challenge is to recruit and hire people to fill those positions,” Armstrong said. “Quite a few people left as a result of lack of leadership. The biggest challenge is retaining people.”
Another issue that Armstrong has already begun to confront is response times to police calls and “being proactive instead of reactive.”
“If you are out there trying to prevent crime instead of reacting to crime, it gives people a sense of security,” Armstrong said. “We’ve done that to some degree, being more visible along the road and patrolling in the valley area.”
Long-term goals for Armstrong include upgrading pay for officers to be more competitive with other departments. He also wants to improve ongoing training for officers. And, finally, Armstrong wants his officers to have a greater presence on the California side of the reservation.
“Because of a lack of manpower, we’re not fulfilling that requirement wholeheartedly,” Armstrong said. “There are a lot of households, a lot of tribal resources, and lot of non-tribal members who have quite a bit of investment in their properties. They need protection as well.”
Armstrong, a CRIT member who attended Parker High School began his law-enforcement career on his home reservation as well. In 1973 he was hired as a CRIT detention officer and later became a patrol officer. He joined the BIA as a law-enforcement officer in 1975, where he quickly rose up the ranks.