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Tribal law enforcement to receive increased policing powers
TULALIP Due to separate actions by Snohomish County Sheriff John Lovick and the state legislature, Tulalip police soon will have the ability to deal more directly with non-Native suspects caught on the reservation.
Tulalip Police Chief Scott Smith said Lovick has agreed to cross deputize 18 of the Tulalip departments 25 officers on April 5. Once that happens, those officers will be entitled to arrest and even book into the Snohomish County jail non-Native suspects detained on the reservation.
Its a tool to effectively address crimes on the reservation, Smith said.
Currently, Tulalip officers can detain non-Native suspects, but only hold them for the Snohomish County Sheriffs office. In the past, Smith has said if a sheriffs representative proves unavailable, non-Native suspects must be released.
We can only hold them for so long, Smith said, describing the current system as ineffective and inefficient.
Even as Smith announced Lovicks decision, state legislators passed a bill addressing the same issue and potentially handed tribal police throughout Washington extended authority over non-Natives once those tribal police meet certain requirements.
Sponsored by State Rep. John McCoy, D-Everett, the rules go into effect July 1. For Smith, the changes cant arrive soon enough.
Thanks to the Tulalip Casino and the Premium Outlet Mall, Smith said tens of thousands of non-Natives visit the reservation every day. If they are not headed for the casino or the mall, they might be on their way to Wal-Mart or the other stores in Quil Ceda Village.
At the same time, the reservation has a full-time population of about 10,000. Only 4,000 of those are Native Americans. Smith contends the limited authority tribal officers currently operate under is a hindrance to equitable law enforcement.
McCoy said there was talk in Olympia of delaying implementation of the new rules until next year, but the date was set as 2008 just prior to the close of the legislative session earlier this month. The bill must go to the state attorney general for a ruling on at least one remaining issue, but McCoy did not seem to think the legislation faces any major remaining hurdles.
Im very pleased with how things turned out, he said, adding he first proposed the changes some five years ago. In talking about the bill previously, McCoy said it seemed headed for passage last year until a last minute objection by the American Civil Liberties Union effectively killed the measure.
In recrafting the bill this year, McCoy said he made some changes to help placate opposition from the Washington Sheriffs Association. According to both McCoy and Smith, the rules require tribes to work out with their local county sheriffs office a formal memorandum of understanding. Any disagreements will go to formal and binding arbitration.
Another provision of the bill calls for tribal departments to carry $15 million in liability insurance. But Smith said probably the most important part of the legislation requires tribal officers to meet a certain level of training before being certified to deal with non-Native peoples.
For example, tribal officers will need to attend a federal training academy and undergo other formal instruction. They must submit to the same background and psychological checks required of non-Tribal officers. Smith said Lovick has imposed the very same requirements on any Tulalip police before they can be deputized.
Even with action from Lovicks office, Smith said the authority of his officers will be limited to the reservation.