Task force fights back against drugs, gangs on tribal reservations


By Raeanna Marnati, KBJR 6

Red Cliff, Wisconsin ( NNCNOW.com)— It’s a rising problem on the Red Cliff Reservation. “We see a lot of marijuana, prescription medications are huge problem in our community, we’re starting to see heroin and methamphetamine come in, cocaine’s always been here,” said Red Cliff Police Chief Bill Mertig.

But tribal authorities are tackling the problem head first, thanks to the formation of the Native American Drug and Gang Initiative formed in 2007.

“We are able to focus on and share information on future gang trends, drug problems and then also to we can take these experts in the field and be able to work these investigations, knowing the community, knowing the players and be able to almost surgically identify and remove these threats,” said Bryan Kastelic, Native American Drug and Gang Initiative Task Force Commander.

The task force is made up of ten tribal police departments throughout Wisconsin.

It’s a collaboration between tribal, local, state and federal authorities to help with drug and gang identification on the reservation.

“It has the ability to shut the drug trade down be it for a few days or a few weeks but it still has the ability and it sends a signal that we will be back and that we are out there,” said Kastelic.

NADGI recently played a role in the arrest and apprehension of five people taking part in illegal drug activity on the Red Cliff Reservation.

Cash, guns, marijuana, and prescription pills were seized in the bust. But for the police, they have just scratched the surface

“We are not stopping at what we did, this is the start. We have a long way to get to the finish line,” said Mertig.

Officials with NADGI say a lack of support, manpower and funding among tribal police departments led to the formation.