RAPID CITY, S.D. — The Rapid City Police Department is taking several steps to try to improve relations with the city’s Native American community.
By November, everyone on the force is to have undergone cultural training. The department also is exploring ways to recruit Native Americans into law enforcement. Officials also have unveiled a new squad car that features a horse-and-feather design done by Native American artist Paul Fiddler.
The department said in a statement that it will use the “Mitakuye Oyasin” patrol car at public events to help teach the community about Lakota culture. The phrase is a Lakota reference to people living in harmony.
A study on race relations in Rapid City last year conducted by University of South Dakota researchers showed friction between the Native American community and the mostly white police force, but also a desire on both sides to improve the situation.
Racial tensions were strained by several incidents, including Native American children being sprayed with beer during a minor league hockey game in January 2015 and the fatal shooting by a white officer of an armed Native American man in December 2014. A state investigation cleared the officer of any wrongdoing.
The police department formed a volunteer community cultural advisory committee in the wake of the study. The group presented a public update during Tuesday night’s City Council meeting and plans another progress report Monday at the city’s Oyate Community Center.