Algin Young grew up on the Pine Ridge Reservation, served in the Marines, and joined law enforcement before rising through the ranks and becoming the number three leader for law enforcement at the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Now, he's returning home to use his 21 years of experience to serve his community as the police chief of the Oglala Sioux Tribe.
"I think now is a great time to enter into tribal law enforcement to better serve the tribe with what I know," Young said Thursday. "I just want to better help my tribe get more resources."
Young, 45, took over as chief of the Oglala Sioux Tribe Department of Public Safety on May 5 after the tribal council approved his position. He is replacing Bob Ecoffey, who came out of retirement in 2018 to serve his tribe.
Young grew up in Wanblee and graduated from Crazy Horse High School. He joined the Marines and was stationed in Hawaii from 1995 to 2000 before returning home to join the police force.
After serving as a tribal officer, he became a BIA officer and patrolled the eastern side of the reservation for three years. He stayed with the BIA and worked as an officer in other places in South Dakota, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Montana, where he was police chief for the Northern Cheyenne Nation.
Young then took on leadership roles within the BIA's Office of Justice Services, serving as the director of the Indian Highway Safety Program and supervisor for the Division of Drug Enforcement. He served as the associate director, the third highest position at the OJS, for the past 3.5 years while stationed in Muskogee, Okla.
Young said he's excited to be closer to his friends and family while using his experience, especially his knowledge of federal funding mechanisms, to help his tribe.
He has plans to increase the size of the police force and number of officers in specialized roles, such as dog handlers, school police officers and drug investigators.
Another priority is "officer safety and helping them become the best police officer they can be," Young said. "So that means more training and community involvement. We’re going to do a lot of community policing and just a lot more community meeting type stuff."
The number one community concern is drugs, Young said. He said drug cases are often turned over to FBI agents and the federals court but tribal officers should use their local knowledge and connections to make arrests. He said he also wants to use data to analyze where and when drug activity occurs.
But "we will not arrest our way out of the problem,” Young said, adding that he wants to lean on tribal programs that help people with substance abuse.
Another community concern, Young said, is the size of the police force, which has 51 officers and detectives to cover 2.1 million acres. The BIA's contract with the tribe only provides enough funding for 44 officers but Young wants to continue to expand through other federal funding sources.
Young said council members told him they care about the police department's relationship and collaboration with surrounding jurisdictions.
Young's proposed changes come after Ecoffey focused on expanding the police force, replacing BIA agents with tribal detectives, and improving response times through new street signs and communication technology.
— Contact Arielle Zionts at email@example.com.