Ada city counselors unanimously approved a cross-deputation agreement with the Chickasaw Nation Thursday at a special called city council meeting.
While the Chickasaw Lighthorse and Ada Police Department have had a cross-deputation agreement for a number of years, the cooperative agreement was strengthened in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court McGirt decision.
That ruling found the Muskogee-Creek Nation reservation had never been disestablished by the U.S. Congress, and remains Indian Country for purposes of the Major Crimes Act. Therefore the state does not have criminal jurisdiction over crimes involving Indians in the Creek Nation territory.
That ruling has since been formally applied to the Chickasaw Nation. This means crimes involving Indians in the Chickasaw Nation treaty territory will now be prosecuted in a federal or tribal court rather than state court.
The agreement codifies in writing the ability of Ada City police and Chickasaw Nation Lighthorse police to work together in protecting area residents.
"Renewing this agreement helps ensure all the officers of both department have all the tools they need to serve and protect our community," said Chickasaw Nation Governor Bill Anoatubby. "We have a long history of working with the City of Ada to serve area residents, including years of working together to maintain law and order and public safety. This agreement marks another milestone in our productive partnership."
Randy McFarlin, Ada City Council vice-mayor, said the city and Chickasaw Nation have always been good partners.
“The Chickasaw Nation and the city of Ada have always worked well together,” McFarlin said. “I think this will help our community and the (Chickasaw) Nation, and help the city to do the things we need to do.”
Ward 4 City Councilor Guy Sewell said the cross-deputation agreement eliminates any uncertainty that might otherwise exist without it.
“I think when you talk about public safety, the thing everybody wants is certainty,” Sewell said. “We want to know what the rules are. Everybody wants to know what the rules are. I think the McGirt decision gives us an opportunity to make our framework known to everybody. We can always count on the Chickasaw Nation to do the right thing. With this sort of agreement, we can come to an understanding and expand the certainty of the roles of all the players.”
Bryan Morris, Ward 1 city councilor, was equally supportive.
“I think it’s fantastic,” Morris said. “I would like to also work together on more things, but for purposes of this cross-deputation agreement, it allows the Ada City police and the Chickasaw Lighthorse Police to provide protection much better by pooling those resources.”
Ada police and Lighthorse police have a long history of cooperative law enforcement and maintaining the peace well before this new cross-deputation agreement.
Ada City Police Chief Carl Allen and Chickasaw Lighthorse Police Chief Mike Manning say their longstanding working relationship ensures residents’ safety will always be their agencies’ primary focus.
Asked what future changes might be in store regarding local law enforcement practices, both Ada and Lighthorse police chiefs agree: not much.
“We’re still going to do our jobs,” Allen said. “We’re just operating as business as usual.”
“I agree wholeheartedly,” Manning said. “Carl and I have known each other for many years. We have a professional relationship and I feel like we have a personal relationship also. If Carl calls me at 2 a.m. and says he needs help, we’re there. And I know if I call him he will do the same for us.”
“What it comes down to is we’re going to be fine,” Allen said. “Our citizens are going to be protected and Mike and I are going to make sure that happens. Cross-deputation comes into play largely because it allows us to contend with whatever situation is emergent. We can back up and say, ‘OK, which agency should take the lead; which one should be the support system?’”
Allen said one of the advantages of a cross-deputation agreement is it allows both departments to serve both Native and nonnative citizens seamlessly.
“It increases our ability to respond. It allows us to combine our forces and deal with situations. It allows us to have resources and assets that we can reach across the board to deal with whatever situation we find ourselves in,” he said.
A recent example of cooperation between the two departments involved stolen weapons from an unmarked Lighthorse unit.
“One our officers had some weapons stolen out of his vehicle,” Manning said. “We found out where the individual was, got a search warrant and an arrest warrant. Carl’s officers were able to secure the perimeter and block off streets because it happened at a residence here in Ada.
“Carl and his command staff were right there on the scene with us,” Manning said. “We were communicating throughout so that his people were up to speed about what was going on. It worked out really well. I attribute that to the relationship we’ve developed and maintained over the years.”
A recently stolen marked Ada Police cruiser presented another example of cooperative effort.
“There was a Lighthorse officer a few blocks away when the (Ada Police) officer gave the stolen vehicle report, and it was our officer who initiated the pursuit,” Manning said. “At some point in the pursuit we backed off an allowed Ada Police to become the primary unit. But we were able to help.”
Allen said the cross-deputation agreement allows for sharing of resources. “We’ve reached out a couple of times to ask for the Chickasaw Nation Lighthorse’s search dog to come in. I personally went on a burglary call one morning (to a commercial enterprise in Ada) where we were pretty sure somebody was still inside.”
Allen said he is appreciative that the canine achieved in short order what would have otherwise taken hours to accomplish. “That dog was able to get in there and clear everything out to be sure everybody was safe,” he said.
Another recent example of cooperation involved use of a drone unit that Chief Manning explained is a function of Chickasaw Nation Emergency Management. “It is a sister agency and we work together and facilitate its use,” he said.
The drone unit was employed during a recent missing person’s case in which several hundred acres of forested area were surveyed from above with the drone’s infrared capability.
“We feared he was in the woods,” Allen said. “It allowed us with pretty good confidence to know this gentleman was not in that wooded area.
“The city of Ada and the Ada Police Department value our partnership with the Chickasaw Lighthorse Police. The city and the Tribe have a strong relationship that’s developed over the years,” Allen said.