Embed America: Problems of liberty and justice on the plains
Calvin "Hawkeye" Waln says raising allegations of police brutality and civil rights abuses against his reservation's police department cost him his job.
August 9th, 2012
11:08 AM ET

Embed America: Problems of liberty and justice on the plains

By Lisa Desjardins and Emma Lacey-Bordeaux, CNN

Rosebud, South Dakota (CNN) - They are watchwords of both parties: freedom and liberty.

But when Embed America went to South Dakota we found a place where many say that both are threatened and the problem is ignored. The Rosebud Sioux Reservation includes one of the poorest counties in the nation, but residents talked with us more about their concerns that the tribal police force is part of a broken justice system.

We spoke with Calvin “Hawkeye” Waln, a recently fired police officer who made some serious charges.

[3:14] “You're talking violations of civil rights, excessive use of force is one. You’re talking spraying handcuffed suspects with pepper spray to physical police brutality where the officers end up injuring or breaking bones from assaulting somebody.”

Waln says his reporting these problems led to his ouster. The police department would not comment on why he was fired.

This comes after years of upheaval in the Rosebud police force. Two chiefs of police were fired in the past four years amidst corruption allegations, then the second chief was reinstated in the past few weeks.

That reinstated chief, Grace Her Many Horses, said she was considering giving us an interview, but had to consult with the tribe’s attorney general. Neither she nor the attorney general returned our calls after that.

But the man who held the job in her absence did speak with us.

Edwin Young, police captain with the Rosebud reservation police force:

[7:37] “I don't see the corruption. All it is is that the public doesn't have the information that they so desire because we have the confidentiality that we have to abide by, so we can't release a lot of information about certain cases 3:50 so just a misunderstanding or a misinformation”

Many on the reservation believe the charges of police corruption and brutality have led to some young Native Americans losing years of their life in prison.

Rose Bear Robe's son is serving a 20-year sentence:

[15:14] “I want a better understanding of this system, so we can defend ourselves and try to find ways of getting lesser time for the men.
CNN: What are you thinking about?
Rose: My son's not going to make it out [of prison] alive, he's going to die in there. Those are my thoughts”

You can check out all our Embed America coverage here. And track the series route across the country on our Embed America map.

soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. Gwen

    I agree Sharon! As a family rights advocate, every day we see there is an ongoing problem of the state harvesting our children as a cash crop in blatant violation of the Indian Child Welfare Act, federal and state law. They are accountable to no one. I am so grateful for Hawkeye and the others that had the courage to speak out on the law enforcement issue on Rosebud as well. I have long wondered why there has been no federal investigation or why the BIA does nothing...oh yeah, Cleveland Her Many Horses the Chief of Police's brother is head of BIA....so it goes on the rez.

    August 15, 2012 at 9:25 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Debra

    PLEASE read 'The New Jim Crow, Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness' by Michelle Alexander. PRISON is the new Jim Crow. they just lock up all the undesirables, ethnic groups, poor and mentally ill to rid society of them. Very SAD!!!

    August 13, 2012 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |
  3. sharon

    This was a good and needed article. Please follow up. Also, a story on the 3rd type of genocide of American Indians would be great. This would be the stealing of native children and then putting them in "white" families trying to make them think they were white. I know, I was one of the "stolen" kids at age 3 days old. This was going on very heavy from the 1950's to 1970's.
    I t did not work.

    August 13, 2012 at 2:28 pm | Report abuse |