Inter-Tribal Council reiterates support of effective criminal justice operations

This article appeared in the November 2021 edition of the Chickasaw Times

Members of the Inter-Tribal Council of the Five Civilized Tribes unanimously passed a resolution commending “the diligent work of our law enforcement and criminal justice professionals.”

Each of the Five Tribes’ criminal justice duties expanded after a series of court rulings that affirmed the reservations of the Muscogee (Creek), Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Seminole nations.

To meet these expanded responsibilities, each of the governments of the Five Tribes enhanced its police, prosecutor, and court systems. Tribal governments have also endeavored to deepen their productive and cooperative relations with non-tribal law enforcement agencies.

The Council resolution states, “the work of our Nations’ law enforcement and criminal justice professionals is an exercise of each Nation’s sovereignty and is instrumental to our ability to protect the public’s safety while we provide effective law enforcement for our citizens, the communities of our Reservation, and the general public.”

Governor Bill Anoatubby said each of the Five Tribes had a longstanding commitment to public safety.

Since the reaffirmation of each Nation’s reservation, Five Tribe law enforcement and criminal justice professionals have brought charges in 6,965 felony and misdemeanor cases, as of September 30, 2021.

“We have always taken seriously our responsibility to protect public safety and serve the citizens and communities within our reservation,” Gov. Anoatubby said. “We have a long history of intergovernmental cooperation on which we can now build as we work to protect public safety and provide effective law enforcement.”

At the Chickasaw Nation, its Lighthorse Police officers have fielded 73,144 dispatch contacts, handled 3,903 incidents, and made 1,361 arrests. Tribal prosecutors are filing nearly 50 new criminal cases in tribal court each week. The Chickasaw Nation now has seven adult detention and one juvenile detention facility agreements, each of which enables the Chickasaw Nation to responsibly house its inmate population.

Deepening its network of intergovernmental agreements, the Chickasaw Nation has cross-deputization agreements with more than 70 non-tribal jurisdictions, including 39 of the 43 incorporated communities within the reservation that have a police force.

“The work of our police and prosecutors tells a compelling story of robust intergovernmental work,” Chickasaw Nation Senior Counsel Stephen Greetham said. “A full 80% of charges developed by our Lighthorse Police are referred to non-tribal prosecutors, whether it is a local district attorney or a federal office, while 60% of the criminal cases our tribal prosecutors have filed in Chickasaw courts were referred to us by non-tribal police. These numbers alone tell a story of agencies working together to provide for the public’s safety. We still have work to do in addressing certain challenges, but we are getting it done.”

Gov. Anoatubby reiterated the importance of proper law enforcement within the reservation boundaries.

“Tribes are getting the job done when it comes to public safety and criminal justice,” Gov. Anoatubby.

Referencing a recent poll reported on by the Oklahoman, Gov. Anoatubby added that “despite an effort to exaggerate the results of this Supreme Court ruling, a large majority of Oklahomans see other issues as more important to the future of the state. This helps confirm our belief that most Oklahomans have seen very little change in their daily life as a result of this ruling.

“We have established many effective partnerships with agencies across the state and which benefit all Oklahomans. We will continue our work to provide for effective law enforcement in a responsible manner,” Gov. Anoatubby said.