Thursday, April 18, 2019

Eagle Butte
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Safety concerns paramount at city’s January meeting


Scrutiny over the slow or lack of response from Ziebach County police officers to residential calls for police assistance at the January Dupree City Council meeting resulted in a presentation from Officer Charles “Chuck” Red Crow at Monday night’s February meeting explaining the Ziebach County Sheriff’s Department jurisdiction restraints and call statistics.

Red Crow, who explained that Ziebach County Sheriff Gary Cudmore had to attend a federal court hearing in Pierre and could not be present, said that the Sheriff’s office received 108 calls last week, with 41 of those from tribal members.

As a matter of fact, sixty-three percent of the calls into the Ziebach County Sheriff’s office, Red Crow said, dealt with the tribe, and the county officers could not respond to them because of jurisdiction restraints.

Red Crow passed out to council members a sheet titled “General Scope of Jurisdiction in Indian Country,” which recognized the chart is a general jurisdiction chart, and “does not apply where Public Law 280, 18 U.S.C. 1163, or other relevant federal statutes, have conferred jurisdiction upon the states.”

Factors the come into play and determine jurisdiction on tribal land are the membership of the individuals involved and the nature of the crime.

For example, an Indian perpetrator with an Indian victim is under tribal jurisdiction unless the crime is classified under the Major Crimes Act, such as murder. This means that only a tribal officer can respond to and act on the call that is not classified under the Major Crimes Act, but if the crime is a major crime, then federal officers have jurisdiction.

In the case of a major crime, the tribal police can secure the area, take photos, and complete an initial report to assist the federal officers.

If the perpetrator is non-Indian, and the victim is non-Indian, then the state has jurisdiction, and the county officers can respond, but tribal officers cannot.

Where the issue becomes less clear-cut is when there is a non-Indian perpetrator with an Indian victim. In this case, on the reservation, state-certified county officers or federal officers, depending on the severity of the crime, need to respond and apprehend the non-Indian perpetrator.

When there is an Indian perpetrator and a non-Indian victim the tribal police can respond or the federal law enforcement agency, and all a county or city officer can do is detain someone until the tribal or federal officers arrive.

Red Crow said that he has had several arguments in which tribal officers are not what Red Crow called “up to speed” on jurisdiction responsibilities, and other situations in which he or another fellow officer (county, tribal or city) were rendered powerless to help someone because of jurisdiction limits.

Red Crow and Dupree City Council members acknowledged that the CRST land expanse and the insufficient number of tribal, county and city officers has resulted in insufficient policing and the compromised safety of everyone living within reservation boundaries.

While efforts to cross-deputize officers to better serve communities have been made, the cross-deputization of officers is usually rejected by tribal council members for various reasons – some pertaining to liability and training issues, and others pertaining to fears that deputizing state officers on tribal land will lead to injustices against tribal members or the serving of state warrants on tribal land.

Red Crow said that he is in support of cross deputizing and increased diversification of training for officers because it would help to uniformly enforce tribal and state laws.

Within a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), potential issues could be addressed by putting in place stages and stipulations that allow participating parties to either reprimand and provide consequences for violations or to pull out of the MOU.

“When it comes down to it, the people are suffering,” Red Crow said, because there are not enough “boots on the ground” and there is so much confusion about who can do what, when – even among officers.

Red Crow also said that there is always a Ziebach County officer on call, but that when he is assisting a victim, he does not pick up his phone, although he said he could not speak for Cudmore or the other county officer.

He explained to the council that people calling can leave a message, and they will check the message as soon as he is done with a call in progress. If no one can be reached, people should call the Sheriff directly and let him know.

Knowing the jurisdiction of the crime can help the public save time by calling the correct law enforcement agency. Situations with tribal perpetrators should be called into the tribal police, and situations with non-Indian perpetrators need to be reported to county police or city police (such as the City of Eagle Butte).

Council member Donnie Farlee asked what would happen if the City of Dupree pulled from their $3,000 agreement to have the county sheriff’s office police in the city, and Red Crow said that in that case, the city would need to hire their own police officers, because that would restrict the county’s jurisdiction to only county roads and areas outside city limits.

If the city did not create its own police department, then it would need to call the state police, or DCI out of Pierre, which is also short-staffed, and would slow response times, which are already slow as it is, Red Crow explained. 

Mayor Veit, Red Crow and council members all acknowledged that the business of policing in these rural areas on tribal land is challenging for all police entities, and cross-deputization seems the best way to ensure the safety of people in the area given limited budgets and manpower.

In other issues, Farlee asked about a street sign on fifth street that is facing the wrong direction and lead to confusion when UPS tried to deliver a package to someone’s house.

The incident raised a discussion about the 911 addresses and other stories about those addresses not being accepted by various companies and organizations off the reservation.

Council member Unalee Howe suggested that people make sure their banks have the correct physical address, and for her, that method resolved issues that she was having.

Veit said that the water pit blew open, and a switch froze, but that was taken care of within a few hours.

Reports came into the city office about a red light on at the pump house, and after investigation, Veit said the switch indicates that a seal needs to be replaced, which is not affecting operation, but will be replaced by Dakota Pump out of Watertown whenever they are able to come to Dupree and fix it, Veit said.

Howe also said that she is working on a matching funds grant that would help the city’s infrastructure, particularly work on the roads, install better street lighting and sidewalks to address safety concerns for city residents and visitors.