Tony Reed
Del Norte Triplicate

Del Norte County supervisors, the Tolowa Dee-ni’ Tribal Council and the Del Norte County sheriff made it official Thursday, signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to put a full-time reserve deputy in Smith River.

The MOU puts a resident deputy in the Smith River area for the first time in more than 18 years.

Owen is a U.S. Army Military Police veteran, tribal member and a lifelong resident of the area. Owen recently graduated from the 119th College of the Redwoods Police Academy where he was recognized for safe driving skills and physical fitness.

“His attendance in the academy was funded by the TDN as a solution to the need for more law enforcement presence in the Smith River area of Del Norte County,” according to a sheriff’s department press release. “Sheriff Apperson agreed to provide Wade with the opportunity to become a Level 1 Deputy Reserve upon completing the academy and passing a background investigation, psychological exam, physical exam and field training program.”

An effort rewarded

Supervisor Chair Chris Howard recognized the Tolowa Dee-ni’ Nation for their part, saying they could not be thanked enough.

“It’s been a long time since our community has thought outside the box, and welcomed, with open arms, a group like the Tolowa Dee-ni’ Nation, who has preceded us in this county by many, many years,” he said, noting that partnerships are sometimes needed to achieve things. “When we work together, we achieve great things. This is one example of great things to come between the County of Del Norte and the Tolowa Dee-ni’ Nation.”

Howard said neighbors and constituents talk to him daily about the importance of the partnership and what the action by the Tribal Council has done for the entire community.

“This is a major step and it should not go unnoticed,” he said.

Looking around the open room, Sheriff Erik Apperson acknowledged officials and community members.

“Us, in this room tonight, represent the payoff for a lot of hard work and a good partnership,” he said. Apperson said it has been a challenge to get law enforcement into outlying areas of the county,

Tribal Council Chair Scott Sullivan called the signing a momentous occasion, saying the Tolowa Dee-ni’ Nation, county and sheriff’s office are committed to public safety and the MOU will increase the presence of law enforcement in the north end of the county.

“This conversation started well over a year ago and it was not something I pitched,” Sullivan said. “It’s counterintuitive to me but I brought a problem to the table without a solution. In the meetings with the Tolowa Dee-ni’ Nation, a solution was pitched. ‘What if we find someone and pay their way through the Academy and (the sheriff’s department) bring them on as a reserve?’”

Apperson said the proposed solution compromised no standards, made no special considerations and cut no corners. He said it took trust and a common goal to make it happen.

“I had the opportunity to get to know Wade through that process,” Apperson said. “I’m incredibly excited to have him on board. We’re going to get some good things done.”

Apperson noted the partnership and result aren’t just new to Del Norte County but new in general and has gotten the attention of other communities.

“I’ve already been contacted by other sheriff’s, in communities much larger than ours, asking ‘How did you pull this off?’” Apperson said he replies that Del Norte are a special community of people driven to a common goal.

“Everybody’s watching, so you need to do a good job, Wade,” he said, smiling. “No pressure.”

With no comments from Tribal Council members, the MOU was signed by Howard, Apperson and Sullivan.

Owen had little to say, thanking family and community members for their help, and Apperson for the new uniform.

Gifts, wishes

Sullivan presented Owen with a Dentalium necklace, a highly-valued gift of respect and esteem.

Former Resident Deputy Joni Forscht left the post over 18 years ago, but was present at the ceremony. Holding up a small, dark stone, Forscht noted that it had been with her since before she was a deputy, working at Pelican Bay State Prison. Forscht said she passed the rock on to Military Police Officer Chris Anthony before he was sent to Iraq. The rock was passed back between them again during his second two-year deployment.

“When he was finished, he came back and brought this rock back to me,” she said, turning to Owen. “I want to give this rock back to you because I know it will protect you.”

Jody Hoone, a domestic violence and sexual assault programs manager with Community and Family Services, said the presence of law enforcement personnel in Smith River will go a long way toward deterring domestic violence.

Andromeda -Na’lhniitr’e’sdvm- Lopez, a Tribal outreach specialist on domestic violence and sexual assault, called the agreement and amazing achievement for the tribe that has been needed for a long time.

Reach Tony Reed at