Glen Yellow Robe when he served as a Rapid City Patrolman.
Yellow Robe lasted 20 years on police force in face of racism
Accuses Chief Tom Hennies also of making racist remarks
By Ernestine Chasing Hawk
Native Sun News Editor Earlier: Part I RAPID CITY –– Few Indians make it into the ranks of the Rapid City Police Force. When one does, the Rapid City Indian community holds these individuals in high esteem because they understand the obstacles one must overcome to get there. Glen Yellow Robe and his brother Luke Yellow Robe overcame those obstacles and served as officers for more than 20 years, Glen with the Rapid City Police Department and Luke with the Pennington County Sheriff’s department. However getting there for Glen was only half the battle. Hanging in there for more than twenty years in the midst of racial tensions was the other half. Glen came forward, supported by his brother Luke, his wife Jeannie and his nephew Brandon Yellow Robe, and detailed not only the countless incidents of racism he witnessed while serving with the Rapid City Police Force, but also corruption and a cover-up by some of Rapid City’s top officials. Glenn related that the late Chief of Police Tom Hennies also engaged in racist remarks about Indians. “I was the only one in the squad room and I caught Hennies talking to FBI Special agent Bill Grody. Grody says ‘I’ve been trying to track you down all day. I need to talk to you about Indian intelligence.’ Hennies went, ‘Ha, ha, Indian intelligence, what a conflict of terms.' I got mad and I stood up so they left the room and went into Hennies office." The six foot four, 280 pound Indian officer said he put up with the racial bigotry because he loved his job, but also because his job was on the line. “I knew early in my career that if I had ever reported all the racist behavior within the Rapid City Police Department, I would’ve been terminated,” Glen said. In the early 90’s, Glen beleaguered by the depth of racist remarks made by fellow police officers decided to record remarks via microcassette and also began taking notes. “One day Steve Allender was telling this horrible Indian Joke and there were deputy sheriffs, FBI agents and a number of detectives present,” Glen related. “I was holding a tape recorder up and Allender was telling this horrible Indian joke… Captain Doug Noyes said ‘Hey Steve look at Yellow Robe.’ At that point the joke was over. I got an envelope out and put the cassette in there and wrote on it, Steve Allender telling horrible Indian joke.” On the envelope he also wrote down all of the people who were present and kept the microcassette in his desk. Years later, all of Glen’s evidence mysteriously disappeared. However one of Allender’s confidants “spilled the beans.” “He went to our secretary’s desk and he got the master key for my office and he let himself into my office which was locked. He ransacked my desk was able to get into my desk drawer which was locked. I had a private briefcase that was out of sight inside my desk,” Glen said. “That’s where he found a lot of the stuff that I had been keeping over the years. One was an envelope and there he found the microcassette and took a magnet out of my desk and did the old magic eraser trick then put the envelope back in my briefcase.”
From left to right: Brandon Yellow Robe, his father Luke, and Glen Yellow Robe and his wife Geraldine. Photo by Richie Richards
In 2007 the Yellow Robe brothers met with then Rapid City Mayor Jim Shaw and a mayoral candidate Allen Hanks and shared their concerns because the man, who was at the helm of the racism against him and other officers of color, fellow police officer Steve Allender, was being considered as the man who would replace then Police Chief Craig Tieszen, who was retiring. “I told Mayor Shaw that constitutes burglary and maybe he was in my office lawfully, but I said once he decided to enter my own private briefcase and steal my private property, and destroy my private property that constitutes burglary,” Glen stated. Shaw expressed astonishment over the actions and racist remarks of police officers under his watch and took the complaints seriously said he would have pursued action against them had he won re-election to the Mayor’s seat. Shortly after voicing their concerns to Shaw, Chief of Police Tieszen fired Glen from his job as Complainant Officer. Luke spoke about their meeting with Hanks, “We had a meeting with Allen Hanks, the candidate, he knew of all this information. He knew that my brother had a file about an inch thick of all these accusations and he wanted to see them.” “At the time there were other officers that were victims. One was Hispanic and the other was a Jewish man. They were victims, brutally attacked, but they were still under the thumb of the department and Glenn was now out of police work, so the difference was those guys wouldn’t step up and admit to all that was taking place because they were afraid they were going to lose their retirement,” Luke continued. Shortly after Hanks won the Mayoral seat, he hired Allender as Chief of Police. Glen had hired Rapid City attorney Dana Hanna and filed a discrimination lawsuit with the South Dakota Department of Labor. The lawsuit was dismissed, “Because more than one hundred and eighty days have passed between the last incident of alleged discrimination and the filing of this charge,” Ray T. Falk, investigator for the SD Division of Human Rights stated in a letter to Hanna. The case was then transferred to federal court under the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Hanna was taken off his case and reassigned to the Anna Mae Piqtou Aquash murder trial. Glen then retained the late Rapid City Attorney Patrick Duffy.
Former police chief Steve Allender is running for mayor of Rapid City, South Dakota. Photo from Facebook
The federal case was first heard before Federal District Judge Karen Schreier who Glen said asked the City of Rapid City to negotiate a settlement. Unfortunately Schreier was transferred to Sioux Falls and the case would then be heard before Federal District Judge Jeffery Viken. Viken dismissed the lawsuit. Glen said he was disappointed because Duffy never brought all of the evidence of discrimination into the lawsuit because Duffy said he was saving it for a jury trial. Glen said Duffy asked for an additional $30,000 before he could file an appeal, money Glen didn’t have. Duffy made Glen sign a gag order that he would not talk to anyone about the case. “What bothered me the most was that the court system and the department never took it seriously, that I was harassed on a daily basis,” Glen said. “There were some comments that should have been in the depositions that never came out.” “The thing that angers me the most is that Steve Allender has never stepped up to the plate and apologized to me or the many people he offended over the years. Steve calls himself a man of high integrity and honesty. He has done nothing but lie and minimize his racist behavior,” he concluded. (Ernestine Chasing Hawk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org) Copyright permission Native Sun News Related Stories:
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