County releases copy of draft law-enforcement agreement

Mille Lacs County Sheriff Brent Lindgren, County Attorney Joe Walsh and special counsel Randy Thompson talked at the Aug. 1 board meeting about a draft of the cooperative law enforcement agreement the county and the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe have been trying to re-establish for more than a year since the county revoked it.

They said the draft, dated July 21, 2017, was being presented for information-only purposes and for the commissioners to ask questions. They said they want the public to know what’s in it and see they’re following the rule of law.

Walsh had a prepared statement and made clear that with power comes responsibility and that his office “is hopeful that the Mille Lacs Band may once again choose to give its police department the powers of a state law-enforcement agency.”

He said the county had identified some 30 issues that need to be addressed in a new agreement. For his office, the main issue is that the band not “hide” any cases from the county under the guise of inherent tribal, criminal authority. Walsh said investigating crimes is a public safety issue, not a tribal sovereignty issue.

He encouraged everyone to read the agreement in its entirety. Walsh’s statement and the draft agreement are attached here:

agreement copy 07-21-2017

joe walsh statement

The agreement refers to exhibits such as designated roadways that were not included with the agreement draft presented Aug. 1.

Lindgren said since the revocation a year ago, there has been strong effort to bring forth a workable agreement, and, “What we have here today is the culmination of a yearlong process.”

He said the agreement is longer than the previous one, but that is because it addresses points to lessen ambiguity in the future.

Thompson made no statement but answered questions from the commissioners, two of whom sit on the agreement-negotiation committee, Tim Wilhelm and David Oslin.

Oslin asked about the relevance of a statement that refers to the Treaty of 1855. Thompson replied that paragraphs under 3B address an issue everyone acknowledges is difficult: The Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe sees its territory as the approximately 61,000 acres granted it in the Treaty of 1855, while the county sees band land as the 4,000 acres held for it in federal trust.

Paragraph 3B of the draft agreement basically states the two sides agree to disagree on boundaries but will work cooperatively to govern public safety.

Thompson said about the agreement, “It’s not going to determine whether or not the reservation exists, it’s not going to be used for that purpose.”

He said the new agreement is more specific and makes clear that the band has inherent criminal jurisdiction and the courts have not delineated how far that extends. The county maintains the authority must not extend beyond trust lands.

The commissioners asked Lindgren about conflict investigations, and he explained paragraph 12 is to address any instances in which a member of the band’s police department undergoes any kind of criminal investigation. When that occurs in the sheriff’s office, the matter goes to an outside agency, and the county expects conflict investigations for the band to be handled similarly.

Asked about paragraph 15 on outside law enforcement agencies, Lindgren said the concern is that without the clause, an outside agency could come in to do the work for the band and not be subject to the regular rules since the band is a sovereign. Walsh said the paragraphs define the rules for any outside agencies that may help but does not prevent the band from establishing those relationships.

Another paragraph, 11, insists that incidents all be reported into the common records-management system most law enforcement agencies can access. Lindgren said for example, if someone serves divorce papers at a home and then later that day there is a domestic disturbance at the same address, the responding officer needs to know what happened earlier before he or she goes into the situation.

Other clauses in the agreement, the group said, are to ensure that sovereign immunity does not prevent lawsuits and damages against tribal police if they’re warranted or prevent officers from being held responsible for their actions.

The agreement requires that the band inform the county when and if it refers any criminal cases directly to the U.S. Attorney’s office. It also states that the county must be involved with any investigation that involves state law, which is what gives the sheriff’s office its authority and under the cooperative law enforcement agreement, how it shares that authority with the Mille Lacs Band.

The presenters did not indicate whether the draft agreement had been presented to or accepted by the band. A representative of the band has not yet replied as to whether the tribe has seen the draft agreement, but the document did not bear any signatures from the county or the band.