INDIAN ISLAND, Maine — The Penobscot Indian Nation’s chief of police has been named Tribal Police Chief of the Year by WeTip, an organization that operates a national crime prevention and anonymous tip hotline.
Police Chief Robert Bryant credits his department’s staff, saying the award is a reflection not only on the police force but also on the tribal leadership and the Indian Island community as a whole.
“The community is the police, the police are the community. We’re intertwined,” Bryant said Wednesday.
He received an email in late April notifying him of the award.
“They were looking for an agency that has made huge strides in not only the crime prevention area but the community-centered approach,” Bryant said.
In 2006, about 1,300 crimes, many of them involving juveniles and vandalism, were reported on the island of about 650 residents, according to Tribal Chief Kirk Francis.
It was around that time that some tribal members were becoming worried about the crime rate and called for changes during council meetings, Francis said.
Bryant took over the deparment late that year and began pushing a community policing mentality, becoming more proactive than reactive and involving residents in attempts to reduce crime.
About a year and a half ago, Penobscot Nation police began partnering with WeTip in an effort to keep tabs on crime in the community and give residents an option for anonymously reporting past crimes or offering tips that crimes might happen.
By 2010, the number of crimes reported on the island dropped to 160 for the year.
Francis said Bryant has worked with tribal leaders and the community in an attempt to bring those numbers down.
Under Bryant’s watch, the police force also has switched to hybrid vehicles, acquiring three gas-and-electric Toyota Highlanders and a Toyota Camry in 2009 to patrol the island.
Bryant said the department’s fuel expenses have been chopped by 40 percent since the purchases.
Francis said the Police Department has pushed to increase its involvement in the community, helping with events such as community walks that promote a healthy lifestyle, drug takeback programs and food pantry drives.
“This accolade was extremely well-deserved, and I think within Indian country we can be really proud of the department we have,” Francis said.