Red Cliff War on Drugs Goes Door-to-Door

Heather Steinberger

Earlier this week, local, state and federal law-enforcement agencies concluded a month-long investigation into illegal drug activity on the Red Cliff Indian Reservation in northwest Wisconsin with the arrest of five suspects.

The Red Cliff Police Department, the Native American Drug and Gang Initiative (NADGI), the Wisconsin Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation, the Bayfield County Sheriff’s Department and the United States Border Patrol conducted the operation, named Operation Paladin, on June 24.

According to a statement from the Red Cliff Police Department, task force members executed two search warrants after months of investigation in the Red Cliff community. They recovered a quantity of controlled substances, drug paraphernalia, weapons, cash and other items.

Next, task force members began a search for subjects in the community that had outstanding warrants. They also knocked on doors and talked with community members about illegal drug activities in the area.

Chief of Police William Mertig of the Red Cliff Police Department said he could not provide details about the items taken. He also advised that the names of the suspects will not be released at this time, pending the filing of criminal charges.

“Our department would like to thank the community and the other agencies involved in this operation for all their support,” Chief Mertig said. “I also really want to stress how important the NADGI group is, and what they’ve done to help Native communities here in Wisconsin. It’s critical that they stay active and stay funded.

“Tribal law enforcement is often considered lesser by state and federal counterparts,” he continued. “With NADGI, with the training and resources we’re allowed to get — it makes us equal or better. It’s huge.”

Chief Mertig stressed that since the formation of NADGI, tribal law enforcement has made significant gains in its fight against illegal drugs and the problems associated with them. He noted that NADGI has built a strong working relationship with partners at the local, state and federal levels.

In addition, he acknowledged the role of the Red Cliff Tribal Council for its strong support of the Red Cliff Police Department’s efforts to make the community safer.

The Red Cliff Indian Reservation, located on the shores of Lake Superior in Bayfield County, Wisconsin, is home to the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. Just offshore are the Apostle Islands and the spiritual center of the Ojibwe Nation, 12-mile-long Madeline Island.

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