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Tribal police = real police?

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  • Tribal police = real police?

    No offense intended to any tribal police officers out there. But the little I know about tribal police comes from Tony Hillerman novels, and that ain't much.

    A few questions I have:

    Are tribal police employed by the tribe, or the federal goverment? If it's the government, does that make them federal LEOs entitled to gov't. benefits and pay scales? And do different tribes' officers have different responsiblities?

    Is their jurisdiction just tribal land, or do they have arrest powers in other areas of the states in which they reside?

    I believe I saw something in a movie that said the FBI has to investigate murders on tribal land (I think it was Thunderheart [?] with Val Kilmer). Is this accurate? If so, are there other crimes that fall under this ruling as well?

    And a related question -- what government agency oversees tribal land? Is it the Bureau of Indian Affairs (which sounds notoriously un-PC these days) in the Department of the Interior? Do they have their own law enforcement personnel?

    Thanks for any assistance.

  • #2
    Kirch,

    Get comfortable, you asked alot of questions and this may take awhile.

    Some Tribal cops are employed directly by the Tribe and some are employed by the Fed. Govt. (BIA) It's up to the individual Tribe to decide what route it wants to go. As they are technically, "soveriegn nations" they develop their own constitution and legal code. Each Tribe can and do handle this differently. Where I work, we are employed directly by the Tribe, and to my knowledge there are no BIA Police in the area, but could be wrong about that.

    As for responsibilities, again it depends on how the code is written. Ours are no different than any other city or county in the state. The Tribe more or less adopted the RCW. There are a few things missing and some additions. Where it gets sticky, is that the Tribal Code applies to Indians, but not "non-Natives" who either live on the Rez or are travelling through. For them, we revert to the RCW. It's confusing at times, but it works. In our situation, there are about 1200 Tribal members on the Rez, and about 4000 non-natives. Which code book we use depends on who the suspect is. To make it even more confusing, Tribal Court has no criminal jurisdiction over non-natives, and the county District court has no jurisdiction over natives for crimes committed in Indian Country (the accepted term).

    Many tribal officers are cross-commissioned with the County Sheriff's office. We are, and have a great working relationship with them. This cross-commission in effect makes us Deputies off the Rez and when dealing with non-natives...and gives us the ability to write cases into District Court. We take part in all the County wide emphasis patrols, search and rescue efforts, waterborne events, etc.

    All our officers meet the same standards as every other cop in the state. Go to the same Academy, meet (and often exceed) the minimum state mandated training requirements, etc. But, that is just our Dept. There are others in the area that don't. Their Ofc's go to the BIA academy which the State of WA does not recognize as an equivilant. These folks are not eligible for cross-commissioning and so can't venture out into the world to play.

    As for the FBI, yes and no. Again, technically we have two organizations that are by statute there to handle major crimes (felonies). This goes back to the court jurisdiction and corruption problems. Tribal courts are limited jurisdiction courts and cannot hear felony cases. As such, the FBI or BIA can and will at times take over felony investigations and subsequent charging and writing into Fed. Court. With some tribes this is a very good idea!!!! But, in our case, we have an excellent track record of professionalism and thoroughness and the FBI signs off on our investigations and off to court it goes. When we have a felony case developing, we contact them, and 10 times out of 10 they kick it back to us. If we get involved in something to big for us to handle (we are a small dept after all) then we ask for help and they will function as our Detectives but this hasn't happened in years. Not that we don't have major crimes, we've developed the resources to investigate without much assistance.

    The long and short of it, is that each Tribe is it's own entity and decides how it wants to handle law enforcement. The Fed. Gov't. established some limits on how far Tribal Courts can go and this in effect placed some limits on Tribal L/E. It has evolved over the years and some Tribal Depts are very good, others are awful. There is one in the area where the Sheriff has threatened to arrest any of its Ofc's who go off Rez in a marked unit or in uniform for impersonating a Police Officer. This is the same Sheriff who cross-commissions us. It's a strange world sometimes.

    And finally, yes the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) is the overseeing body.

    I'm sure I only confused you with this, as I tried to hit the highlights without making this to long.

    Comment


    • #3
      Here in CA, unless it has changed which I don't think it has yet, tribal Police are not recognized as LEO. They do meet the same requirments and have to attend an academy, but the state doesn't recognize them. I know the Tribes are fighting it and trying to get their Officers to be recognized, but as it stands, if they leave the reservation, they can be arrested for impersonating a Peace Officer.

      Comment


      • #4
        quote:
        Originally posted by danceswithfools:
        As they are technically, "soveriegn nations" they develop their own constitution and legal code.

        As such, the FBI or BIA can and will at times take over felony investigations and subsequent charging and writing into Fed. Court.

        I never understood this part. If a reservation is its own sovereign nation and has its own constitution and laws why is our federal govt intervening? And why do my tax $$$ go there? I don't understand the whole treaty thing.

        Comment


        • #5
          It's not the reservations that are separate, it's the Indian Nation itself that is soverign. The reason for that is that the nations were already here, acting as nations on this land thousands of years before Europeans arrived. European settlers lived here from 1492 until 1776 (284 years) and only in 1776 became America, and seen as soverign in it's own right.

          America is not yet 300 years old. We are far older, and legally, morally and rightfully soverign and apart from America.

          Once in while, the news reports certain states trying to overcome an Indian Nation that resides on land within the states borders. But each time the attempt fails, because the Indian Nation, being soverign (not technically, but really ) is well known to be equal to the Federal level and all states are inferior to the status of the Indian nation. Any dealings with Indian nations therefore has to be from the Federal level (although the states make a big deal of compacts).

          The BIA was established with its stated mission to assist indians, but has a track record of abuse. Including the loss of 10 billion dollars of royalties which it received as trustee but has lost. Royalties, not tax money.

          The BIA by rights ought to be dismanntled and will be through politics.

          Jim Burnes

          Comment


          • #6
            Dances with fools hit it all pretty much on the head. The only difference I've seen with any of that was in Idaho where I believe, non-natives can be cited into tribal court for certain status offenses and traffic misdemeanors. I assumed that was due to some state statute allowing them too. Otherwise, they just did it and figured if no one knew the difference they might as well bank the fine money.

            The caliber of officer's on tribal agencies can vary a great deal. All the BIA guys I've known have been super troops. An old partenr of mine in Rapid City left us to go work for BIA. When I went to POST in SD in 1984 there were 5 tribal officers in there from different tribes.

            I'm not going to say which tribe, but there were two guys in there that literally had the equivelent of a 4-5th grade education and failed every exercise we had but since they were tribal, that didn't matter. They got the jobs because they were relatives of people on that tribe's council. Back then, it was a very corrupt system on that particluar reservation. Don't know if it is still the same way anywhere or not? Dance may have more insight into that? We only deal with the Las Vegas Paiute Tribe here and they are all top notch folks that I've met.

            As for jurisdiction, we actually have a chart in our policy manual that breaks different crimes down into race of the victim, race of the suspect, and if it occured off reservation lands or on as to who will handle it. To make it more difficult here, this is an urban reservation so one side of the sidewalk is tribal, the other is ours.

            Comment


            • #7
              The American government covers the indian trust lands through the Major Crimes Act. This was accomplished due to a murder which took place on the Rosebud resevation, S.D. involving two men, one Crow Dog and his cousin Spotted Tail. They had bad blood, Crow Dog killed Spotted Tail and the US government discovered they could not legally take Crow Dog to trial for that crime.

              Thus, the Major Crimes Act came about.

              (Crow Dog did go to trial though, was found guilty and was to hang on a certain day. He was released, took care of personal business and reported several weeks later. Said good by and stepped off the gallows under his own steam.)

              BTW, Tribal police are about as real police as any found in any city. It's insulting to think otherwise.

              Jim Burnes

              Comment


              • #8
                quote:
                Originally posted by DesertRat:
                .

                . They got the jobs because they were relatives of people on that tribe's council. Back then, it was a very corrupt system on that particluar reservation. Don't know if it is still the same way anywhere or not?
                .

                On some lands, it is that way still. On the Rosebud, SD., the council members seem to be more European and less Lakota. There is a real problem there with official corruption which the people see and object to, but the sitution hardly changes month to month.

                The Crow, the Blood and Onineda are in the same leaky boat. It's hard.

                Jim Burnes

                Comment


                • #9
                  Jim and Dances have it down as far as I know. If all goes well, I will be working for a Tribe here soon. I do know that their patrol force is a mix of Tribal officers and BIA police officers.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Thanks for all the great information. With only a few reservations in our state, and those being up north primarily, I don't have much interaction with tribal police. You've all taught me a lot about tribal police and the reservation system.

                    As I suspected, tribal police are no different than any other cops. Most are good, diligent law enforcement professionals. A few are jagoffs that don't belong in uniform.

                    The California situation surprises me. Is that because of bad blood between the state and the individual tribes? Or is there some other reason?

                    I was also wondering, if the tribes are part of a soverign nation (I got that right, didn't I?), how can a state have any jurisdiction over them? I'm thinking primarily of the whole gambling issue, but hunting & fishing rights come to mind as well. Someone mentioned 'compacts', but I'm not sure what those are. Is that some sort of an agreement between the state and its indigenous tribes?

                    I'm just full of questions, aren't I?

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      The California situation surprises me. Is that because of bad blood between the state and the individual tribes? Or is there some other reason?

                      California is a funny place. In my area there has been bad blood off and on between some agencies and tribal councils. The county had raided tribal smoke shops and busted people leaving the rez. Then there was the fight over gaming. It would porbably surpirse most here that I actually voted for Davis in the last election. The reason was that the Republican wasn't really any better on gun rights and the Republicans were fighting Indian gaming. I believe in tribal sovereignty and believe it is the governor's job to defend the sovereignty of the state and how can he do that if he denies the soveriegnty of the nations?

                      I was also wondering, if the tribes are part of a soverign nation (I got that right, didn't I?), how can a state have any jurisdiction over them? I'm thinking primarily of the whole gambling issue, but hunting & fishing rights come to mind as well. Someone mentioned 'compacts', but I'm not sure what those are. Is that some sort of an agreement between the state and its indigenous tribes?

                      As I understand it Federal law "allows" the nations to conduct whatever type of gaming that is legal within the state they are in. The tribes can make "compacts" with the state to allow more if both parties agree. I haven't seen where states regulate Indian fishing and hunting and they shouldn't. I regularly hunt and fish on tribal land and get my license from the tribal government.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Kirch,

                        You got it right, there is no difference. Just one more part of the larger L/E family.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          A United States Supreme Court decission in 1838 held that Indian Nations were "dependent" nations existing within the borders of the United States.

                          Just for empahsis sake, I did mean to type "dependent". That was the term used. The ruling also stated that the US and Georgia governments could not remove the Cherokee from Georgia. President Andrew Jackson told the Supreme Court to get an army and stop him from removing the Cherokee.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            The Canadian Federal Government, all Provincial Governments and the First Nations peoples are still working out their relationships. (As Pete tip-toes REAL careful here!)

                            Anyway, there are some full-service Police Services on some of the Reserves, and some are Peace Keepers that work under the guidance of either the RCMP, OPP or SQ.

                            I believe that the First Nations Police Service members HAVE to be sworn in as Peace Officers under Provincial legislation in order to be able to conduct their duties off the Reserve, as well as to enforce Provincial laws on the Reserve. However, I THINK FNPS members are sworn in by their own Reserve under the governing powers of the Indian Act and can then enforce that Act, certain other Federal laws as to other LEO/PO (drugs mainly) and the Criminal Code.

                            If anyone is interested, go to http://www.blueline.ca to see an article about the Dakota Ojibway Police Service in Manitoba.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              The situation here, as I understand it, is tribal police have jurisdiction over their own on their ground.They are not Peace Officers,as we know them.
                              I have several tribal patches and badges as I was adopted by the Shoshone and have an interest.
                              This was long ago and far away.
                              As a result of pre European conflicts, tribes claim territory by right of conquest or adverse and hostile possesion.eg: the Chippawa ran the Sioux out of MN.The Winabago, who now call themselves Ho Chunk, almost extincted themselves twice with bad and dishonorable decisions with the Illonois, for one, since the French kept records. They did not have real estate lawyers.
                              They had grounds that expanded and contracted with the waxing and waning of their power.
                              Dances would be a Tlinket, I`d guess.
                              Why the U.S. chose this policy was to make a deal rather than fight with limited resources.
                              Lewis and Clark found friendlies and hostiles.So it would go; as it went with the tribes.The Navaho, Zuni and Hopi were the natural prey of the Apache. They left them enough to live on and to grow another crop for the Apache.The Commanch preyed on everybody within reach.Until The Texas Rangers killed them all or drove them down into Old Mexico, where the Yaqui killed them.
                              I have heard that there are a few Commanche left. I doubt it.They would be mestizos,at best.
                              Then the U.S Cav. came along to keep the peace.We all know how good soldiers are are at that.
                              The BIA puts Apache police on the Arapaho rez.
                              Rezes are still Fed Propty. Thus FBI jurisdiction.
                              I`m confused too.
                              Art.1 says that Congress shall have exclusive jurisdiction over fed propty. How do states get involved with rezes?

                              Comment

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