By Adam Gaub
Casa Grande Dispatch
The oft-mentioned phrase “the slow wheels of justice” may well apply to the years-long process the leaders of Ak-Chin Indian Community endured to bring a new justice facility to their people.
Sixteen years of planning, waiting and studying came to a head with a fulfilling groundbreaking on Wednesday morning, as the Ak-Chin Tribal Council and several key figures of the tribe’s justice system were on hand to celebrate the start of a new multipurpose justice center.
The building, which will include space for the tribe’s police department, detention staff and judicial staff — in addition to a courtroom and jail — shows how far the community has come in just a few short years.
“Our police force had diminished to just three … but the community pushed this forward,” said Tribal Council Chairman Louis Manuel Jr., speaking of the small size of the Ak-Chin Police Department just a few years ago. “When we took this project up again, everybody was pumped up … but even some of us on the council were wondering if we were ever going to get to the end of this road.”
The tribe began discussing plans for such a facility as far back as 1996 and had many false starts along the way. Thanks to a grant in 2008 from the U.S. Department of Justice and the work of a core committee that visited 15 different tribal nations to see how they had built similar facilities, this time around is different.