A new Oklahoma law is designed to close legal loopholes that prevented tribal police officers from working with nontribal officers.
Under the law, tribal officers who have been certified by the Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training may respond to emergencies that involve an immediate threat to life or property. The bill also allows those officers to respond to such emergencies with the consent of the appropriate state, county or local law enforcement agency.
Certified tribal officers may respond to requests from an officer with investigative or territorial jurisdiction or while transporting a prisoner.
Rep. Lisa Billy, R-Purcell, and Sen. Susan Paddack of Ada teamed up on the bill, which was signed into law in June.
Paddack said Oklahoma’s federally recognized tribes do not have reservations, with the exception of the Osage Nation, but federal trust lands are scattered throughout the state. She said criminals are familiar with federal trust lands and have taken advantage of them to break state laws and avoid arrest.
Paddack said she worked with Billy for two years on a bill to address the problem.
“This law does enable tribal officers to arrest nontribal members on tribal lands,” she said Tuesday. “We really feel like all across Oklahoma, people are going to be safer.”
She said the measure does not affect communities where tribal law enforcement officers are cross-deputized to assist nontribal officers.
Billy did not respond to an email seeking comment, but she said in a news release that she and Paddack worked with the Oklahoma Chiefs of Police Association and tribal law enforcement officers in developing HB 1871. She said the law will help resolve jurisdictional disputes when someone who does not belong to a tribe commits a crime on tribal land.
“These are situations that have caused a great deal of frustration and confusion,” Billy said. “By enabling state, county and municipal law enforcement to work with CLEET-certified tribal officers, we are enhancing public safety efforts on behalf of tribal and nontribal citizens alike. That’s a positive change that benefits all Oklahomans.”