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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Policing dispute flares in North Idaho

Tribe accuses county of rewriting agreement

The Coeur d’Alene Tribe on Wednesday accused Benewah County of reneging on an agreement, backed by state lawmakers, to cross-deputize tribal police officers.

Tribal officials said they received this week a new version of a cross-deputization agreement with more than 50 changes that revived disagreements over key provisions already settled in previous discussions.

Those changes were major changes about “nearly every” contentious issue, said tribal spokesman Marc Stewart. The revisions changed everything from jurisdictional issues to the definition of a police officer, he said.

“There was a deal, they agreed to it, and now they’re not,” Stewart said.

However, Benewah County Prosecutor Doug Payne said the agreement the tribe sent to the county was different from what was agreed upon in those negotiations, especially regarding citing non-tribal persons into tribal court, a major sticking point for the county. He said the county modified the agreement to ensure that would not happen.

The county also made changes to clarify that any lawsuits resulting from the actions of tribal police officers would be covered by a $2 million insurance policy provided by the tribe.

“What they put in the agreement is not what we agreed to,” Payne said.

“That is a bald-faced lie,” Stewart said. The tribal council signed the document shortly after the agreement was reached, he said, and has been waiting weeks for Benewah County to follow suit. “The agreement that was presented to the council is exactly what they agreed upon.”

Stewart’s statements were backed by Vaughn Killeen, executive director of the Idaho Sheriff’s Association, which worked with both parties to negotiate the agreement, and by state Rep. Jim Clark, R-Hayden Lake, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

The dispute had been the subject of at least one legislative hearing in Boise this year, and lawmakers made it clear they wanted a resolution.

“It’s almost a complete rewrite,” Clark said of the document signed by Benewah County commissioners on Monday. “We thought we had a deal. We thought it was over. All they had to do was sign it. Now there’s all kinds of changes. I’m not happy with it.”

At issue is public safety on the Coeur d’Alene Indian Reservation, where Indians and non-Indians live side by side, creating jurisdiction challenges for law enforcement. A tribal news release said Michael Kane, who represented the sheriff’s association in the negotiations, testified at the hearing that an agreement had been reached that would be signed by all elected officials.