Del Norte County Sheriff Erik Apperson called the moment “a cause for celebration” as he administered the oath of office to the first Yurok Tribal Police officer to be cross deputized.
Brian Donahue, who has been with the Yurok Tribal Police for more than five years, took the oath Tuesday with his colleague, new sheriff’s Deputy John Gale. Apperson introduced the peace officers to the Del Norte County Board of Supervisors along with three other new hires; dispatcher Rebecca Harmon, new correctional technician Michelle Banks and Danielle Southard, a new correctional officer.
It was “a cause for celebration” not just because Gale and Donahue were sworn in on National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day, but because Donahue’s involvement with the sheriff’s office represents more than two years of work between the county and the Yurok Tribe, according to Apperson.
“It was just making sure we had a (memorandum of understanding) that everybody involved felt was mutually beneficial,” Apperson said, adding that cross deputization with the Yurok Tribe was a topic he brought up during his campaign for sheriff in 2014. “The easy part was in the beginning when I was working with Chief (Leonard) Masten. It was just a couple of cops speaking cop lingo and then of course we had to get legal counsel involved and both of our boards respectively. It was really important that by the time we got done with the process, we had created a device that would sustain the test of time when personalities and names change; that it would still work out for everybody.”
Apperson said another component of the MOU between the two entities was finding qualified applicants within the Yurok Tribal Police who could meet the qualifications as a YTP officer and a sheriff’s deputy.
A YTP officer who seeks to be cross deputized with the Del Norte Sheriff’s Office must have graduated from a California police academy within a certain amount of years, Apperson said. They must also go through the sheriff’s office’s full application process including passing a psychiatric evaluation, obtaining a physical and taking written exams.
“Once they pass all that stuff and they’ve satisfied all the qualifications and met the benchmarks, which is where we got to yesterday, now starts the training program,” Apperson said Wednesday. “They go through a full field training program as would anybody that got hired on at the Del Norte County Sheriff’s Office.”
Once he completes his field training, Donahue will have the same authority as a level 1 reserve deputy, Apperson said, and will be able to enforce California law within Del Norte County both on and off the Yurok reservation.
A reserve deputy is a volunteer position, Apperson said. There are three different levels of reserve deputy with level 1 having the same level of authority as a deputy, he said.
Donahue was born in Arcata and raised in Del Norte County, graduating from Castle Rock High School.
During the supervisors meeting, David Gensaw Sr., vice chairman of the Yurok Tribal Council, congratulated Donahue for his work, noting the relationship between the tribe and sheriff’s office is “a long time coming.”
“The tribe can help the Del Norte County sheriff, the Del Norte County sheriff can help the tribe and we can work together at a greater place now,” Gensaw said. “This is a beginning, hopefully, and we would like to see a lot more moving forward and a lot more working together and shared responsibility of Del Norte County and the Yurok Tribe.”
Apperson said having a relationship with the Yurok Tribe will enable his department to better serve the county’s outlying areas. He noted the sheriff’s office is in the final stages of cross deputizing another Yurok Tribal Police officer.
Apperson also noted the county has also partnered with the Tolowa Dee-ni’ Nation to hire Deputy Wade Owen to work in the Smith River area.
“Everybody in our county deserves to feel as safe as they possibly can regardless of where they choose to live in our county,” Apperson said. “Whether they live in the outskirts or visit there or work there, we’ll do the best we can to get equitable law enforcement to outlying areas.”