Chickasaw Lighthorse Police building partnerships

This article appeared in the February 2024 edition of the Chickasaw Times

Recent Christmas festivities in downtown Ada, Oklahoma, featured many traditional holiday favorites, including inflatable bounce houses, light displays and shopping. However, families were treated to an unexpected surprise at the Ada Public Library. Police officers were caught serving cookies and warm cocoa to visitors.

Community members of all ages enjoyed the sweet treats and holiday cheer served by several community law enforcement officials, including members of the Chickasaw Lighthorse Police Department.

Events like this highlight the Chickasaw Lighthorse Police Department’s community-oriented policing approach, a philosophy Chickasaw Lighthorse Chief of Police Chris Palmer says is focused on building partnerships between police officers and residents.

“Community-oriented policing promotes partnership and problem-solving amongst law enforcement and the community to address public safety concerns,” Chief Palmer said. “This model of policing is widely used because of evidence-based positive results.”

Lighthorse’s community policing efforts extend far beyond the public library into many community programs, serving a wide range of populations.

During a presentation at the Marie Bailey Village in November, Lighthorse officers shared safety information directly with Chickasaw elders and learned about the needs and concerns of senior citizens. By supporting the Special Olympics each year, Lighthorse learns how to better serve  residents with special needs.

Chief Palmer said each opportunity gives Chickasaw Lighthorse Police officers great insight into a community’s specific needs while also helping community members better understand how their police department serves them.

“When law enforcement and the communities they serve collaboratively work together, root causes of crime are identified,” Chief Palmer said. “This leads to opportunities to decrease crime, which in turn increases public safety and enhances community trust.”

Other community policing initiatives include the Chickasaw Lighthorse Police Youth Academy, drug prevention efforts such as the prescription drug take-back program and business/industry initiatives featuring active shooter trainings and security assessments.

Chickasaw Lighthorse Assistant Chief of Police Terrance Bush said community-oriented policing efforts are popular nationwide because they seek to provide a connection between the community and the police while also educating the public about important safety topics.

“Community policing helps us prepare community members for how to respond in dangerous situations and build trust so they know that when we show up, they will be safe,” Bush said.

“It has enabled us to reach young people and instill in them at an early age that police are there to help and can be trusted, and it has allowed us to teach our elderly how not to fall victim to scams and other elderly-related crime. Above all, it shows we are all in this together,” he added.

Unity is a value Chickasaw Lighthorse Patrol Officer J.W. Edwards felt as he served Christmas cookies at the library.

“It is truly a blessing getting to know the people in the area I work,” Edwards said. “It is important to build a rapport with community members and to let them know that when they call us, there will be a genuine, familiar person there to respond.”

As a member of the Chickasaw Lighthorse dive team, Edwards participates in many community policing initiatives. The dive team and the Lighthorse SWAT team routinely display their state-of-the art tools and demonstrate their techniques at schools, festivals and other public events.

Edwards said it is particularly meaningful to connect with children at these events.

“It is heartwarming when children are fascinated by all of the different equipment of the dive team and ask so many good questions,” Edwards said. “I particularly enjoy talking to youth who aspire to become police officers and sharing with them how rewarding the profession can be.”

Interactions like this may be individually small, but collectively they contribute to environments where law enforcement agencies are tightly interwoven into the communities they serve.

Community-oriented policing seeks to be more than a law enforcement strategy. It invites collaboration, partnership and friendship – all things that the Chickasaw Lighthorse Police Department welcomes.

“The more involved community members are with their law enforcement agencies and vice versa, the more meaningful relationships are fostered, leading to a safer community for all,” Chief Palmer said.

Throughout the Chickasaw Nation, these relationships have taken many forms. They are expressed formally in 79 cross-deputation agreements with municipal, state, tribal and federal agencies that allow public safety responsibilities to be shared.

Bush said a simple greeting or “thank you” given to a police officer can change the whole outlook of an officer’s day. He invites the public to stop and visit anytime they see a Chickasaw Lighthorse police officer in public or while attending a community event.

“Our officers wake up every day ready to go to work regardless of how tired they are or how bad a day they had yesterday,” Bush said. “They do this because they love the communities in which they serve, and they are there to do everything in their power to make things better for their communities.”

About Lighthorse

The Chickasaw Lighthorse Police Department has served Chickasaw Nation communities for 20 years. Reestablished in 2004, its officers strive to protect the lives and property of the people served, reduce crime, preserve peace and provide a safe environment while working in partnership with local communities to enhance their quality of life.

Chickasaw Lighthorse police use innovative methods and state-of-the-art technology to provide exceptional law enforcement services to people residing within the Chickasaw Nation treaty territory, which encompasses 7,648 square miles and includes all or parts of 13 counties in south-central Oklahoma.

The Chickasaw Lighthorse Police Department has three precincts. They are located in Ada, Newcastle and Thackerville. The department has 105 full-time sworn law enforcement officers serving the Chickasaw Nation. For more information, visit