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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Eye On Boise

Conflict between sheriff, tribe prompts bill

Here's a link to my full story at about the buzz at the Legislature today over whether criminals are going free in Benewah County because the local sheriff won't work with the local tribal police. The problem: Without a cross-deputization agreement, tribal police officers can't arrest non-tribal members, even if they catch them in the act of committing a crime. Instead, they must call on a county deputy or state trooper to make the arrest. Roughly 10,000 people live on the Coeur d'Alene Reservation, but only 1,400 are tribal members. In the Kootenai County portion of the reservation, a cross-deputization agreement is in place; there was a longstanding one in Benewah County until Benewah Sheriff Bob Kirts revoked it in 2007.

The Coeur d'Alene Tribe is proposing legislation - which hasn't yet been introduced - to give tribes a six-month window to give a county notice that they want to enter into a cooperative law enforcement agreement. If an agreement isn't reached within six months, tribal police could begin enforcing state law against non-tribal members on the reservation, as long as they're certified by Idaho's state police academy, the tribe carries insurance, and the tribe waives sovereign immunity to permits lawsuits over officer wrongdoing. "The idea was if we can't work out an agreement with Benewah County, perhaps the best solution is to change the law in order to give citizens a recourse if a sheriff just won't agree to cooperate," said Coeur d'Alene Tribe spokesman Marc Stewart.

Eye On Boise

News, happenings and more from the Idaho Legislature and the state capital.