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Salt River Police Department Celebrates 50 Years

The Salt River Police Department presents the SRPMIC Tribal Council with shadow boxes that contained commemorative badges during the SRPD 50th Anniversary Celebration held at the Council Chambers.

The Salt River Police Department celebrated its 50th anniversary on June 30 with a special public event at the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community Tribal Council Chambers at Two Waters.

The event started with the SRPD Honor Guard posting the colors, the national anthem performed by Miss Salt River Second Attendant Angelica Gonzales, and a prayer by Council member Tom Largo, Sr.

The keynote speaker, SRPMIC President Delbert W. Ray, Sr., welcomed those in attendance and shared his thoughts on the Community and its police department.

“Today is a true display of tribal sovereignty, to have our own police department—and for 50 years,” he said.

He said he was proud of the Community Council, who assumed control of law enforcement in 1967 from the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

“Being in law enforcement takes a special type of person to carry out the duty to serve and protect the Community, sacrificing time away from family,” Ray said. “We, the Tribal Council, would like to say thank you for your service to the SRPMIC. Your work is appreciated, and we are proud of the work you do.”

Currently there are 156 men and women who serve in the Salt River Police Department. The sworn officers respond to criminal, traffic, civil, animal and public assistance calls, and the professional staff members provide dispatching, record-keeping and other administrative services to support the work of the SRPD every day.

“I am 19 years older than this police department, and I’ve seen a lot of changes,” added Ray. “And I’m glad we can keep up and maintain the safety of the Community with funding and technology.”

The first SRPD chief of police was Burnett “Buddy” Gates. His daughter, Danette Gates-Mendoza, shared a special tribute at the celebration. She read some recollections written by her mother, Florence Gates, about Buddy Gates’ experiences while he was on the force. This opportunity gave her a chance to reflect on their lives and relive memories of her father’s police work.

Gates-Mendoza read from her mother’s letter, which noted that Buddy kept a radio next to the bed to hear calls of disturbances in the Community. She recalled how things in the Community were much different then, as there were unpaved roads and roads that crossed into Lehi. At times only two police officers were on patrol, one in Lehi and the other in Salt River.

Current SRPD Chief Karl Auerbach discussed the proud history, partnerships and the “limitless future” of the SRPD.

“Today is a very special celebration for the police department and also for the SRPMIC,” Auerbach said. “Many of you here today have played a very significant role in the success and accomplishments of the SRPD, and we have been very blessed to work very closely with our Community, Community members, Council, executive administration, SRPMIC partners, law enforcement commission and others.”

Highlights and major accomplishments over the department’s five decades were shared in a PowerPoint presentation.

Community member Cecilia “Tweedy” Antone provided the lunch. The chambers were decorated with posters of past and current chiefs of police. Members of the SRPMIC Council received commemorative shadow boxes that held SRPD badges and plaques. Council member Ricardo Leonard ended the event with a traditional song and prayer.