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Law Enforcement Agreement Gets Support from County Committee

By Joe Morey

News Editor


The Sawyer County Board Public Safety Committee unanimously voted to support advancing the recently signed Law Enforcement Agreement with Amendments to the full County Board for vote next week.


The LCO Tribal Governing Board (TGB) and Sawyer County Sheriff’s Department renewed their annual Cooperative Law Enforcement Agreement for 2021 on Nov. 25, 2020 following a push from the TGB for all non-criminal citations issued within the reservation boundaries to be heard in LCO Tribal Court rather than the county court system.


The Public Safety Committee went into closed session at their meeting on Wednesday, March 3, to hear from the County’s attorney, Rebecca Roeker, on whether the Agreement could be signed by the Sheriff without having approval from the County Board.


Upon coming out of closed session, the committee chair, James Schlender Jr, called for the vote and all five members voted to support the agreement with amendments. Motion was made by Chuck Van Etten to, "Send the Amendments as written in the form and put forward to the County Board for approval.”


Voting in favor were Van Etten, Schlender, Dale Schleeter, Ronald Buckholtz and Ed Peters.

Prior to going into closed session, Schlender stated to the committee members that the Agreement was already in place and services were being rendered.


The agreement provides for funding of a part-time deputy of the sheriff’s department to enforce the laws of the county and the state working within the tribe’s reservation, along with the laws of the tribe.


The previous cooperative agreement had already called for all traffic tickets issued within the reservation boundaries to be dealt with in tribal court but it wasn’t being enforced.


The amendment to the Agreement reads, “The Parties agree that referrals may not be able to be made to the tribal court in two specific instances related to civil violations accompanying criminal violations and a first OWI. If a civil violation accompanies a criminal violation, that matter may be sent to County Court, if reasonably necessary to accompany criminal violations. Also, in relation to a first OWI, if a Tribal Officer is not available to handle the referral at the time of the stop, the matter may be sent to Sawyer County Court. Both of these exceptions shall not impair the offender’s ability to request a transfer to tribal court for any civil violation, including a first OWI. As used in this Agreement, the "Tribe's Reservation" refers to the territory described in Article I, Section 1 of the Amended Constitution and Bylaws of the Tribe, in addition to all other land that qualifies as Indian country pursuant to 18 U.S.C. 1151.”


Going forward, to satisfy the Agreement, whenever a County Deputy does a traffic stop on the LCO Reservation, he will be required to call for an LCO Police Officer to respond and take over jurisdiction of the traffic stop, unless the traffic stop would fall under the amendment listed above.


LCO TGB member Gary “Little Guy” Clause said he urges all Tribal Members to make sure an LCO Police Officer is on scene when they are stopped by a County Deputy on the Reservation. He noted this will insure that all traffic and non-felony citations will be heard in LCO Tribal Court.


The agreement mandates all non-criminal citations will be referred to Tribal Law Enforcement to be filed in Tribal Court. This would include whether the offender is tribal member or non-tribal member.


The agreement also states the county-tribe deputy will “Work closely with members of the tribe’s law enforcement department to deter and solve crime on the tribe’s reservation. The size and unique nature of the Sawyer County, the grant of jurisdiction under Public Law 280, staffing and funding limitations of the sheriff’s office and the tribe’s law enforcement department and increased crime all justify continued funding of the program.”


The funds are allocated from the state Department of Justice. Mrotek said the amount of $50,999 originally was enough to fund a full time deputy, but this year it has increased to $53,000 which includes wages and benefits.


TGB member Tweed Shuman said the DOJ funds come from the gaming compact dollars and that Tribes are able to give input on the amount and the use.