Several TGB Members Share Concern over Saturation Patrols
By Joe Morey
With negotiations coming soon for the 2023 Cooperative Law Enforcement Agreement, saturation patrols (random traffic stops) continue in the Lac Courte Oreilles Community. They were the direct result of the last agreement made in December of 2021.
At a LCO Tribal Governing Board (TGB) meeting in late August, several tribal leaders expressed their concerns with the saturation patrols conducted jointly by the Sawyer County Sheriff’s Office and the LCO Police Department and how they are focused only on the Reservation rather than the whole of Sawyer County.
TGB member Don Carley asked why they aren’t doing these stops in all parts of the county.
“This needs to be everywhere,” Carley stated. He said he was concerned that the county is a tourist area and they don’t want tourists to see it.
LCO Secretary-Treasurer Tweed Shuman agreed that all saturation patrols are on the Reservation, “And that’s really unfair.”
TGB member Michelle Beaudin said they are only focused on the Reservation but drugs are everywhere.
“They need to go after the source,” Beaudin stated. “She said many of the low income and impoverished people of our community are the targets.”
Beaudin said this sends an unfair message to the community that only LCO is the problem when drugs are coming in to the entire community from outside the Reservation.
TGB member Gary “Little Guy” Clause also shared his disagreement with the whole agreement, pointing out that he was the only TGB member who abstained from approving the agreement because he had many unanswered questions.
Shuman also abstained, but that was because he also serves as county board chairman.
LCO Vice-Chairwoman Lorraine Gouge said it’s a just effort and everyone needs to work together.
The most recent LEO Agreement between the Tribe and Sawyer County was signed on January 1, 2022, and stated the two parties will enter into a collaborative joint effort to provide additional law enforcement services on the LCO Reservation. This will include the formation of a “Joint Task Force” with shared training amongst our officers, increasing community awareness to our citizens, and directed efforts to combat the criminal and drug activities in our communities and schools.
But the amount $48,887 provided to the county from the state of Wisconsin, taken from the Tribe’s gaming compact dollars, has been used solely for saturation patrols (random traffic stops) that began on Feb. 3, 2022, and have occurred monthly since then.
A statement was later issued defending the patrols claiming that the LCO TGB signed off on the random traffic stops when they signed the agreement, but, the words “saturation patrols” were never included in any agreements.
The saturation patrols are being conducted on all parts of the Reservation on one day per month in which law enforcement from the LCO Tribal Police Department and the Sawyer County Sheriff’s Office, with assistance from the Wisconsin State Patrol, the U.S. Forest Service, and the St. Croix Tribal Police Department conduct random traffic stops.
According to law enforcement, “The purpose of the saturation patrol is to attempt to locate and identify drug dealers and users and to disrupt the trafficking of narcotics and other controlled substance on the Lac Courte Oreilles Reservation.”
The following is from an LCO News/Sawyer County Record article previously printed announcing the agreement.
From Frank Zufall of the Sawyer County Record;
For years, the Sawyer County Sheriff’s Department has used the grant dollars to subsidize a county deputy working primarily on the reservation.
In 2020, the LCOTGB insisted that as a condition of the 2021 agreement that all non-criminal cases, mostly traffic citations, be heard and adjudicated in tribal court, pertaining to both tribal and non-tribal members.
The county agreed to the LCOTGB conditions, but over the next year of the 61 traffic citations on the reservation only five were referred to tribal court.
When it came to discussing the 2022 agreement, the county wanted to remove language in the 2021 agreement that required an appearance before the tribal court for both tribal and non-tribal members for non-criminal cases and replace it with “the appropriate court of jurisdiction,” which would result in non-tribal members appearing before circuit court instead of tribal court.
However, the LCOTGB insisted on keeping the language of the 2021 agreement in place that would still require both tribal and non-tribal members to appear in tribal court for non-criminal cases on the reservation.
Reportedly, non-tribal members from outside the reservation took issue with being ordered to appear in tribal court and expressed their concerns, which resulted in the proposed amendments to the new agreement, which would direct tribal member only to tribal court.
In discussions during the Nov. 9 SCBOS meeting and recent Dec. 2 SCPSC meeting there was no support of a legal reason or theory, such as legal jurisdiction, driving the revision of the 2021 agreement.
However, Sheriff Doug Mrotek did mention on Dec. 2 he thought there was good legal reason for removing it but he didn’t explain.
At a recent LCOTGB meeting that Sheriff Mrotek attended, when questioned why the agreement was being changed, Mrotek said the SCPSC had concerns that laws may be violated or constitutional rights infringed upon by directing non-tribal members into tribal court.
However, Supervisor James Schlender, chair of the SCPSC and a lawyer and former tribal judge, questioned on Nov. 9 why non-tribal members wouldn’t be comfortable being in a tribal court when they would have no apprehension with appearing in a court in a different state.
“We have citizens who want to travel on tribal roads but don’t want to fall within their jurisdiction,” Schlender said.
Mrotek responded to a question from the Record for the change and replied, “The change with the 2022 Cooperative Law Enforcement Agreement is due to the legal opinion from our county legal counsel with regards to the transfer of court jurisdictions.”
Sawyer County Chief Deputy Joe Sajdera said that there had been talks with LCO Police Chief Tim DeBrot and they both learned that the grant dollars do not have to be specifically used to subsidize a deputy, and an idea emerged to use the dollars for a “special law enforcement details on the rez (reservation) with joint cooperation with the LCO Police Department.”
Sajdera said members of both departments would work on the special details in lieu of “one specific deputy working on the reservation.”
From Joe Morey, LCO News;
According to the LCO Legal Department, the new proposal scraps the idea of a County/Tribal Deputy and replaces it with a Joint Drug Task Force between the two agencies, LCO Police and the Sawyer County Sheriff’s Office.
LCO Legal representatives said the new task force would act as an ad hoc committee to act on work assigned to it by the Joint agencies. The capacity to set up the task force would also be to the discretion of LCO Police Chief Tim DeBrot, and Sheriff Doug Mrotek.
LCO Chairman Louis Taylor questioned whether the tribe would have the ability to insure the new agreement is “cooperative” in this new format.
“How do we know that it won’t be six sheriff’s deputies responding to an incident and not any of our officers,” Taylor questioned.
Taylor also asked if this is simply the same as what has already been disagreed upon just in different wording. He added he is concerned about who actually investigates complaints on the reservation and who gets the responding officers together.
LCO Legal said it would be up to Chief DeBrot to make sure LCO is included.
The main change to the previous agreement that swayed the TGB to vote in favor was the addition that as a joint task force the LCO Police Department would be able to invoice the Sheriff’s Department for reimbursement for any time that LCO Police has into the task force. In this format, the grant funds would be shared between the agencies.
Chief DeBrot confirmed this and added that it is similar to what his department does when working with the Native American Drug and Gang Initiative, an inter-agency task force that works on area tribal reservations.
In regards to the previous agreement assigning citations issued on the reservation, the LCO Legal Department representatives said this is still in effect and that an agreement isn’t needed to insure this happens.
It was stated LCO Police need to continue being on site during traffic stops on the Reservation and those citations will be issued in Tribal Court.