April 24th, 2010
There has been an enormous amount of attention put on the issues of criminal jurisdiction in Indian Country in the past couple of years. The U.S. Senate has held hearings on this subject, for example.
The fact that tribal government and police do not have criminal jurisdiction over every person who enters tribal reservations and lands is an enormous problem in protecting law and order and cries out for some solution.
Apparently, Wasco County in Oregon is going to take a step that both increases the authority of tribal police but helps the county to enforce law and order in its jurisdiction too.
Wasco County Sheriff Rick Eiesland told the county’s Board of Commissioners Wednesday he is working on a memo of understanding with leaders of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs to allow tribal police the authority to make arrests or take other police action in Wasco County.
By the same token, the agreement would allow Warm Springs officers to take appropriate police action if a non-Native American gets into trouble on reservation land, Eiesland added.
Eiesland said deputizing Warm Springs officers will avoid a problem similar to an incident last year where tribal police arrested a drunken driver after a pursuit that started on the reservation but ended in Jefferson County.
A conviction on the driver was overturned on appeal based on the tribal officers’ lack of jurisdiction outside the reservation.
Eiesland also noted a potential for costs savings and improved personnel efficiencies.