- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 17, 2017

LAKE ANDES, S.D. (AP) - The police chief of the Yankton Sioux Tribe is asking people on the reservation to call his department’s administrative phone number with emergencies rather than 911.

Tribal Police Chief Chris Saunsoci’s request comes after the department hired six dispatchers of its own in October and ended its dispatching services with Charles Mix County on Jan. 1, The (Mitchell) Daily Republic (https://bit.ly/2jFINLx ) reported.

“A lot of the community just did not want to call the sheriff’s office,” Saunsoci said. “They wanted to call us, not them.”

The Yankton Sioux Reservation had paid the county an annual fee of $45,000 for 911 dispatching services since the 1990s. Any 911 calls from the reservation are still being taken by the county, but calls to the sheriff’s office are being redirected to the tribe’s new dispatch center.

The department has received 250 calls per month, a more than 450 percent increase, since hiring the new dispatchers and beginning the transition. Saunsoci said other tribes have also cut 911 services without issue.

The department’s new dispatch service will cost about $60,000 annually, Saunsoci said. Initial costs of equipment and software were about $20,000.

“It’s not saving us anything, but we’re just providing an extra service, a better service for our communities,” Saunsoci said.

Charles Mix County Sheriff Randy Thaler supports the tribe’s decision.

“They’re increasing their own responsibility in wanting to open their own dispatch center and control their own officers,” Thaler said. “I don’t see a problem with that.”

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Information from: The Daily Republic, https://www.mitchellrepublic.com

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