Civil Officer program prepares young people for career in Nez Perce Tribal law enforcement

LAPWAI, ID - Civil officer Austin Domebo at the Nez Perce County Jail picks up a group of inmates and loads them into his van.

It will be the second inmate transport of the day for him. As one of the two civil officers for the Nez Perce County Tribal Police, he'll take care of work the police officers don't have time to do.

"We do all the animal calls, we do all the medical transports, the court transports," said Domebo.

"They have limited arrest powers, and they don't carry firearms," said Nez Perce Tribal Police Chief Leslie Hendrick. "They can't carry a firearm until they are 21 so that's why we're aiming at that age group, 18-20."

According to Hendrick, the civil officer program started five years ago for those who want to get their foot in the door if they're interested in a career in law enforcement.

"The purpose of it is that if we have an opening of an entry level officer position that they would step into that," said Hendrick. "They're familiar with our department. They know about the civil and the prisoners and the handling."

Most of Domebo's work deals with handling inmates which he said doesn't intimidate him at all.

The Nez Perce Tribal Police transport van takes inmates from various jails around the area to Tribal Court in Lapwai. The van is extremely confined in space and they do have separate areas for men and women.

Domebo said he's never had any problems during his five years as a civil officer and that because he's so involved in his community, he knows most of the people he deals with. He said being a role model in the community is something that just comes with the job.

"I've got a lot of people that look up to me," said Domebo. "I've got a lot of little cousins, nieces that I help out with."

Domebo will spend the afternoon watching the inmates in their holding cells as they wait for court, and drive them back to Lewiston to the Nez Perce County Jail. For Domebo, the ride along Highway-95 is just another part of the job, to get him to where he wants to be.

Hendrick said her department would like to incorporate more civil officers however, the budget only allows for two at this time.