Tribe and County Renew Cooperative Law Enforcement Agreement
By Joe Morey News Editor
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 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.
LCO Secretary-Treasurer Michelle Beaudin told the sheriff that as part of the previous cooperative agreement, all traffic tickets issued within the reservation boundaries would be dealt with in tribal court but that hasn’t been happening.
TGB Member Tweed Shuman added that he has trouble with the fact those citations are not coming through LCO Tribal Court. He said all non-criminal citations issued on the reservation need to come through the court.
“We are in the process of expanding our tribal administration building to include a public defender, a scheduling officer and a zoom meeting room and collecting these fees through tribal court would help support these badly needed services,” Shuman noted. “Our people don’t feel like they are being treated fairly. The expanded court with the addition of a zoom meeting room will provide the opportunity for our people to appear before the county judge, but from our court room.”
Beaudin stated that all citations issued, no matter if they are tribal members or non-members, should be in tribal court if they are issued on the reservation.
The new law enforcement agreement states that over the first three months the sheriff’s department and the Tribe will work together to establish and implement an efficient system for all county deputies from that point on to properly refer all civil violations/citations occurring on the reservation to the tribal court.
“I was very adamant about the implement of this language in the agreement,” stated Shuman. “That we work together over the next three months in developing a system to make this happen.” Shuman noted the County and Tribe would work together with JusticePoint to develop this plan. JusticePoint was recently contracted to coordinate criminal justice in the county.
The agreement mandates all non-criminal citations will be referred to Tribal Law Enforcement to be filed in Tribal Court.
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.”
It goes on to note, “The Tribe and the Sheriff’s Office have identified increased youth crime rates, methamphetamine abuse, heroin abuse, opioid abuse, alcohol and other drug abuse, domestic violence and gang related activity as some of the most urgent law enforcement problems within the Tribe's Reservation.”
Despite numerous examples of the County and Tribe working together in law enforcement, such as drug enforcement, an arson investigation and the search for a missing person, the agreement states, “However, even with these types of activities, drug activity continues to be most significant in Sawyer County and on the Tribe’s Reservation. With on-going arrests and joint investigations, the drug abuse, most significantly methamphetamine and opioid abuse in Sawyer County continues to grow at an alarming rate. The County-Tribe Deputies will continue to serve an important role in deterring and addressing these activities. In 2020 to date, there have been twelve (12) drug related deaths in Sawyer County. The heroin and methamphetamine epidemic in Sawyer County remain a significant problem in Sawyer County and on the LCO Reservation.”
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.
Mrotek told the TGB that the sheriff’s department does their best to schedule the tribal deputy when the LCO Police Department doesn’t have an officer scheduled.
“Unfortunately, sometimes the schedule changes and there are times when neither, the LCO PD or the sheriff’s department has anyone scheduled,” Mrotek explained. “During those times our patrol lieutenant does his best to make sure a deputy is on the reservation unless an emergency situation occurs elsewhere in the county. We do our best to work around the issues.”
Mrotek also explained that the sheriff’s department assists the LCO PD when they need them as well as the other way around, the LCO PD will come off reservation and assist the sheriff’s department when needed.
LCO Sec-Treasurer, Michelle Beaudin, asked the sheriff if he still meets with the LCO Police Chief, Tim DeBrot on a monthly basis and Mrotek said due to Covid, it hasn’t worked out and their schedules conflict. He added they do have a lot of communication with each other.
“I think it’s vital to have collaboration between the two of you,” Beaudin stated.
LCO Tribal Attorney Dyllan Linehan said the tribal court is hearing from a number of tribal members that are ending up in the Sawyer County Court rather than LCO Tribal Court with their citations. Linehan said LCO can fill out a petition on behalf of tribal members to transfer the case from county to tribal court, but only 1 out of 100 people know they can have that done.
“If we are paying this money for this cooperative agreement, then why is this not being done,” Linehan questioned the sheriff regarding the citations going through tribal court. “I don’t think I’ve seen one case out here that wasn’t a transfer.”
Linehan noted that the tribe is paying $51,000 annually for this agreement and yet all the citation revenues are going straight to the state and not being shared with the Tribe. The revenue from citations issued on the reservation could raise revenue for the Tribe, he concluded.
Mrotek told the TGB some valid points were being brought up and that he would pull up the numbers on the amount of citations issued within the reservation. He also stated that sheriff’s deputies would need to be familiar with the actual boundaries of the reservation in order to issue citations for tribal court.
“Currently, there’s no process set up for our deputies to write tribal citations, but as partners, hopefully we can find a solution,” Mrotek stated.
From the Sawyer County Sheriff's Department are left, Chief Deputy Joe Sajdera and Sheriff Doug Mrotek. At the table are TGB members (left) Gary "Little Guy" Clause and Tweed Shuman.