The Salem Or. Statesman Journal reported that the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde is considering establishing its own police force.
“An undertaking like this is very big,” said Peter Wakeland, director of development for the Tribes. “It would take quite some time to pursue that in earnest. I’m not saying we’re not looking at it but, it will take some time if we do follow through with that.”
The Tribe has applied for a grant that “would allow us to pursue the idea of a tribal police force,” Wakeland said. When that money would be available and what its purpose would be is unclear.
Tribal officials have had some discussion with Polk County Sheriff Bob Wolfe about the possibility of a tribal police force.
Tribal police forces have authority to enforce laws on tribal land when offenses involve citizens of the tribe. They cannot make arrests or enforce laws when another citizen commits a crime on reservation land, and they have no law enforcement authority off tribal land.
Several Oregon counties have cross-deputized tribal police to give them more authority both on and off reservations. Cross-deputization is a system when a local sheriff gives his or her authority to members of a tribal police force so they can enforce state laws within the county’s jurisdiction.
There are several tribal police forces in Oregon that have the authority of local sheriff’s offices.
In Eastern Oregon, Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation police are cross-deputized by the Umatilla County sheriff. The important thing is a good working relationship, Sheriff John Trumbo said.
“We’ve got a really firm understanding of how it works,” he said.
Trumbo sets requirements that tribal police must meet if they wish to have his authority to enforce state laws. Requirements include training at the Oregon Public Safety Academy and certification by the Oregon Department of Public Safety Standards and Training, for example.
The sheriff also has the authority to refuse an applicant to the tribal police force. Trumbo estimated he’d done so three times in 14 years as sheriff.
Giving tribal police authority to enforce state laws takes workload off Umatilla County sheriff’s deputies, who are stretched thin, and provides better coverage, Trumbo said.