Harvey Pratt, a citizen of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes, spent 50 years in law enforcement. Photo by Rosemary Stephens / Cheyenne & Arapaho Tribal Tribune

Cheyenne & Arapaho Tribal Tribune: Citizen retires after 50 years in law enforcement

Tribal member retires after 50 years in law enforcement

By Rosemary Stephens
Cheyenne & Arapaho Tribal Tribune


“It’s hard … retiring is hard.”

Those are the first words Harvey Pratt can think of when asked about retiring from law enforcement after 50 years of service.

On March 30, the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes honored Pratt with a celebratory luncheon at Redlands Community College in El Reno, Oklahoma. Chiefs, tribal officials, friends and family gathered at the luncheon to show their respect for the many accomplishments Pratt has had over his lifetime.

“As I was thinking of Harvey and the many, many years I have know him, the one word that comes to mind is humble. He’s always been one to help the tribes when we reach out to him, he’s always there and a proud member of our tribes … he’s one of a kind,” Teresa Dorsett, Department of Administration Executive Director said.

Pratt has always said his highest honor has been being inducted in the Southern Cheyenne Chief’s Lodge as a traditional Peace Chief.

“Success is built on failure. We can’t all be successful and do great things, we have to fail, but we have to learn from those failures and I think that’s what’s really important that we learn. And I have learned from a lot of failures. I have been fortunate in my life to graduate from the FBI National Academy, I’ve been the director of the Organized Crime Information Center and I’ve been on the Oklahoma Arts Council, chairman of the Indian Arts & Crafts Board at the Dept. of Interior and I’m on the Red Earth board. I’m in the Oklahoma Law Enforcement Hall of Fame, OSBI Hall of Fame, but the thing that is most important to me above all this … is that I am an Indian,” Pratt said.

Russell Willey, Dept. of Veteran Affairs presents Harvey Pratt with one of the first customized veteran’s vests being made for tribal veterans. Pratt designed one of the front patches for the vests. Photo by Rosemary Stephens / Cheyenne & Arapaho Tribal Tribune

Pratt is considered one of the leading forensic artists in the United States, spending 50 years completing thousands of witness description drawings and thousands of soft tissue reconstructions. His work has assisted in thousands of arrests and hundreds of identifications of human remains throughout America. He has been the only full-time police forensic artist in Oklahoma with the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigations (OSBI).

“In my whole career I have done over 5,000 witness drawings, I’ve done over 2,000 soft tissue reconstructions of unidentified bodies, 200 cranial feature reconstructions, age progressions. I’ve developed a technique of how to interview victims and witnesses that are now being taught all over the United States. How to photograph unidentified human remains … all those things I’ve had a piece of,” Pratt said.

“And just recently I took the mask off of Jihad Bob. Jihad Bob was cutting peoples’ heads off in Syria. They had photographs of him and he was wearing a mask and when he turned his head I could see the reflection of his facial features. I could see his nose and where his lips were and I could see he had a little beard," Pratt said. "I could see his eyes and I reconstructed his face and I sent it over to the FBI and the military and they caught him a week later.”

Pratt said he called his friend at the FBI and I asked him if that drawing helped them, “My friend said, ‘Harvey it was a piece of the puzzle. There were a lot of other things going on that we had but that was a piece of the puzzle that helped us.’ And that’s what we have to be, all of us, we have to be a piece of the puzzle. Put everything together for one another … be a piece of the puzzle.”

Pratt began his law enforcement career at the Midwest City Police Department in 1965 where he did his first witness description drawing a year later. This first drawing resulted in an arrest and conviction.

He joined the OSBI in 1972 as a narcotics investigator and retired in 1992 as an Assistant Director. But his retirement was not for long, as he became OSBI’s only full-time forensic artist on the force thereafter.

His expertise in witness description drawings, skull reconstructions, skull tracing, age progression, soft tissue postmortem drawing and restoration of photographs and videos have aided law enforcement agencies nationally and internationally.

Some of Pratt’s most famous cases included the BTK killer Dennis Raider, Oklahoma Girl Scout Murders (Gene Leroy Hart), the I-5 killer Randall Woodfield, World Trade Center 1993 bombing, the Sirloin Stockade murders, Oklahoma City Bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah building, the Oklahoma State Fair abduction of girls and many more.

Harvey Pratt displays a medicine bag gifted to him from the Cheyenne & Arapaho tribes during a retirement luncheon at Redlands Community College in El Reno, Oklahoma. Photo by Rosemary Stephens / Cheyenne & Arapaho Tribal Tribune

“I’ve seen a lot of things happen in my career of law enforcement. I’ve seen a lot of terrible things, but I have seen a lot of really good things, some really good people. Good law enforcement people, good witnesses, good victims trying to do the right thing and when you’re around people that try to do the right thing, it inspires you. I think that’s what it’s supposed to do … inspires you to do better, to be a better person,” Pratt said.

Close friend and guest speaker, Jim Anquoe said when he thinks about Pratt he thinks about learning.

“Harvey, congratulations, and retirement is something to really look forward to. Yesterday was Viet Nam Vets day and Harvey was one of the first people I thought about. Two of my favorite people in my lifetime have been Harvey and Lawrence Hart. When I think of Harvey I think about learning and what I’ve learned from being a Marine, what I’ve learned from being married into the tribes … I’m a Headsman, they made me a Headsman and I’m so honored for that. I have always been so proud of Harvey for doing so many things with his life. I learned to appreciate what we all have accomplished in our lifetime from Harvey. There are not too many Indians in this area in the OSBI,” Anquoe said. “You’re not done yet. You still have a lot of Cheyenne to look after. It’s been a pleasure knowing you all of these years, and your family.”

Pratt plans on continuing with his work as a Native American artist. He is a self-taught artist in oils, acrylics, watercolors, metal, clay and wood, and has won numerous awards throughout the country for his art.

And as if that wouldn’t keep him busy enough, Pratt is currently assisting out of state law enforcement agencies with some of their unsolved cases and is currently working with the tribes’ Dept. of Veteran’s Affairs Director Russell Willey to help build veteran programs.

“The main thing I think is you have to get up, you can’t lay in that bed or stay on that couch, you’ve got to get up, move around and have projects and work towards some things. I need to stay busy, plan on doing my artwork and I am going to continue to do some forensic stuff for local law enforcement and work with the retired agents program. So I have irons in the fire and I think that’s really important that you have irons in the fire instead of just stopping and not doing anything. I think that’s the worst thing that can happen to you.”

The Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribal Tribune can be reached at:
Public Information Office
700 North Black Kettle Blvd.
Concho, OK 73022
P.O. Box 167

Editor in Chief Rosemary Stephens can be reached at rmstephens@c-a-tribes.org

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