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BIA removes reservation police chief

Sat., Feb. 4, 2006

The chief of police on the Spokane Indian Reservation has been removed from his post by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, various officials confirmed Friday.

Robert Flett, a former tribal police officer who later became a BIA agent, has worked in law enforcement on the Spokane reservation for almost 20 years. He couldn’t be reached for comment.

Matthew Pryor, the special agent in charge of the BIA’s regional office in Billings, was involved in removing Flett as BIA chief on the Spokane reservation, sources said.

Pryor and his assistant, Steven Juneau, did not return telephone calls seeking comment on why Flett was removed.

William “Bill” LeCompte, who has been a BIA agent for about five years, was named acting chief, federal officials confirmed. He wasn’t available for comment at the tribe’s law enforcement office in Wellpinit.

Assistant Chief Scott Small said he couldn’t talk about Flett’s departure or LeCompte’s appointment as acting chief, or what precipitated the shakeup.

Flett’s removal as chief comes almost exactly two years after a former BIA special agent, Duane Garvais, said he was uncovering police corruption on the Spokane reservation.

The case caught the attention of the state’s congressional delegation.

Garvais was investigating reports that three tribal police officers were involved in thefts and drug trafficking on the Spokane reservation. One of those officers subsequently was fired.

When the Spokane Tribal Council got wind of the corruption investigation, the council passed a resolution urging the BIA to transfer Garvais to another reservation.

The BIA temporarily transferred Garvais, and then placed him on administrative leave.

At the time, Flett declined to talk about Garvais’ investigation or his transfer.

The Spokane tribe, under Flett’s direction, also brought a petty theft charge against Garvais – a charge the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Spokane said was without merit.

The charge against Garvais later was dismissed after Senior U.S. District Court Judge Justin Quackenbush said the Spokane tribe only had legal jurisdiction over enrolled tribal members.

But Garvais ultimately lost his job as a BIA agent after the agency said he shouldn’t have been hired if he wasn’t an enrolled member of any federally recognized tribe.

Garvais filed a civil rights suit against the Spokane tribe, which is scheduled for trial this fall in U.S. District Court.


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