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Native Sun News: New police chief focuses on Indian cold cases

The following story was written and reported by Karin Eagle, Native Sun News Staff Writer. All content © Native Sun News.

City of Rapid City Mayor Sam Kooiker announces his selection of Lt. Elias Diaz, 16 year RCPD veteran, as the new Chief of Police for Rapid City.

Rapid City finds new police chief
By Karin Eagle
Native Sun News Staff Writer

RAPID CITY - Out of a pool of 26 candidates Rapid City Mayor Sam Kooiker claims that “one clear choice emerged.”

With over sixteen years of wide experience within the Rapid City Police Department, Lt. Elias Diaz was chosen to take the seat of Chief of Police, following the May 30 retirement of former chief Steve Allender.

Following the vetting of applications by a five member panel selected by Kooiker, three names were given to the Mayor’s office for consideration. The panel included Jamie Al-Haj, Rod Oswald, Wanda Peacock, Lower Brule Sioux Tribe, Lyndell Peterson, and George Tennyson.

From the twenty-six applicants, the panel performed a series of interviews, both in person and via telephone. 11 of the 26 were interviewed which led to the top three names being presented to the Mayor.

Diaz is currently Lieutenant, and had begun his employment with the RCPD in September 1998. Among his multiple capacities in the department, he has been a patrol and traffic officer, Detective, Patrol Sergeant, Evidence Sergeant and Professional Standards Lieutenant over Accreditation.

Prior to joining the RCPD, Diaz had taught Spanish and English as a Second Language at National American University. He is a 1998 graduate of Central High School and holds Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from the Masters College in Santa Clarita, Calif.

As a child, Diaz spent some time on the Pine Ridge Reservation due to some work that his father, artist Eli Diaz, did there. Lt. Diaz attended almost a year of elementary school at Little Wound Elementary in Kyle.

During a press conference held by Kooiker at the Rapid City Council chambers, Diaz said that not only does he have a passion for pedestrian and bicyclist safety in the city, but that cold cases were going to be a focus of his during his time as Chief of Police.

Diaz specifically cited the cases of Carl Bordeaux and Robert Ghost Bear. The body of Ghost Bear was found March 21, 2012. An autopsy determined he died from a blow to the head. Bordeaux was found dead in his apartment in January 2009. His throat had been cut and a phone cord was wrapped around his neck.

Both cases had gone cold following police department statements published that information was being sought from the public.

“Today I pledge to you, citizens of this community, my tireless and unwavering efforts to not only promote public safety, and to not only promote the quality of life we all desire to have, but the pledge continued public confidence and continued public trust which we have worked so hard to earn and will continue to work for,” stated Diaz.

When asked about his commitment to working within the Native community, Diaz expressed his willingness to seek some cultural sensitivity training as well as increase the community outreach between the police department officers and the Native community.

Diaz also explained that he would be willing to seek a broader understanding of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) for his officers. There have been reports where some officers had little to no understanding about the federal mandate that was established in 1978.

It is often up to the officers involved in cases where children are reportedly in danger or have suffered abuse of some type to decide to remove the children and place them in the care of the Department of Social Services. ICWA can be enacted by placing the children with family members or the tribe with which they are affiliated, thereby, according to many proponents of the law, protecting the best interest of the children.

As Chief of Police, Diaz will oversee a staff of 153, including 119 sworn officers.

Mayor Kooiker’s selection of Diaz will go before the full City Council at the next regularly scheduled meeting on June 16.

(Contact Karin Eagle at

Copyright permission Native Sun News

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