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  • Tribal Police, Etc.

    I know that there are some Tribal PDs near me, but I am really not all that knowledgeable on how they differ from one another. Am I correct in assuming that some have state commissions, but others have federal commissions? Do any have both state and federal commissions? As a practical matter, how much difference does it make for day to day policing? Do all Tribal PDs prosecute there cases through tribal courts or does that vary from reservation to reservation? I really don't know all that much about sovereignty. I have heard people talk about open vs. closed reservations. What is the significance of that? I have Googled this is the past, but I still had some questions. I think of the the counties in Minnesota is located entirely within an Indian reservation. How would the duties of the sheriff's office differ? I am just assuming that non-Indians can own real estate on reservations, but maybe that depends on the reservation. also, with the issue of sovereignty, do residents pay the same taxes as other Americans? I know this sounds like a weird comparison, but I seem to recall reading that U.S. Territories, like Puerto Rico, are headed by a Governor, but don't pay all of the same taxes as those of us that live in states. (Of course, to confuse the issue, I think since D.C. isn't a state, that some things are a little bit different there. I think the United States Marshals Service has to perform some of the services that would otherwise be performed by a sheriff in other states, like evictions and other civil process.)

    Anyway, if anybody has an URLs for some websites that really explain Indian country policing, it would probably help me understand this a little bit better.

  • #2
    The actual authority of the tribal police depend on the tribe. Some tribal officers are actually Bureau of Indian Affairs (federal officers) that are assigned to a reservation, sometimes these officers only enforce federal laws, sometimes they also enforce tribal laws, and sometimes they also have state/county authority. Usually state authority is not given at the state level but by the actual county sheriff, so one county may give the tribe the authority and others may not. Most tribal officers are actually officers that work for the tribe itself, these departments usually get funding from BIA but not actual personnel.

    Usually tribal cases whether it is thru BIA or an actual tribal PD is handled through tribal courts. Usually the reason why tribal officers seek state/county authority is so they can handle offenses involving non-tribal members. In those cases the case goes before the county/state judge.

    Like I said in most states it is up to the sheriff to decide if he wants to give state authority to tribal officers so they can enforce laws on non-tribal members. Many sheriffs are against this however. My home state has about 15-20 tribal PD's, all are tribal ran. Only two tribes have state authority from sheriffs, even though most (if not all) have tried to seek the authority.

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    • #3
      Authority and jurisdiction in Indian Country is a real mess, but here is a basic run down...

      First, MN is a PL-280 state, so the state and county have jurisdiction over all offenses committed on tribal lands. A tribal department in MN "could" have state powers, but that is at the county's discretion. If they don't allow a tribal department to enforce state law, the tribal PD is limited to enforcing tribal code. If they are cross commissioned, they can enforce state and tribal law, but not federal law. Federal law will not apply in a PL-280 state unless there is a compelling federal interest.

      That is the easy one... Now the hard one, non-PL-280 states.

      In Non-PL states you have to look at the location of the offense, the suspect, the victim, and the offense to know who can charge and who has adjudication powers. An offense committed in IC (Indian Country) by an Indian against an Indian, the tribe has full authority, the Federal government could have authority, the state has no authority. An offense committed in IC by an Indian against a non-Indian, tribe has authority, Fed could, State has none. An offense in IC by a non-Indian against an Indian, tribe has no authority, Fed has authority, state could *very rare, usually only when its a juvenile issue.* An offense in IC by a non-Indian against a non-Indian, tribe has no authority, fed has no authority *unless it is an offense that the fed would have jurisdiction over if not committed in IC*, state has authority.

      When looking at federal charges in any of those cases, you need to look at the offense to know if the fed will take it... 18 USC 1152 and 1153 (Major Crimes Act). Then you have Duro v Reina issues unless the tribe has adopted the Duro fix.

      Long story short, you need to check with each tribal department to know what the limits are on their operations and authority. Even working BIA you will have differences in authority when going to different reservations.

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      • #4
        Search the threads. This has been discussed a number of times. If you are really interested, see if your library can get you a copy of "Tribal Criminal Law and Procedure" by Garrow and Deer.

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