indianz.com your internet resource indianz.com on facebook indianz.com on twitter indianz.com on Google+ indianz.com on soundcloud
phone: 202 630 8439
Native American Bank - Native people investing in Native communities
Advertise on Indianz.Com
Home > News > Headlines

printer friendly version
Court sides with tribe in law enforcement dispute
Friday, November 12, 2004

In a victory for tribal law enforcement, a federal appeals court last week barred a county sheriff from imposing state law on a tribe's police force even when those officers leave the reservation.

According to the state vehicle code, the use of emergency light bars is limited to "authorized emergency vehicles" performing emergency services. For several years, the sheriff in Riverside County has been using this law against the Cabazon Band of Mission Indians.

The Cabazon Reservation is composed of four non-contiguous sections, so tribal police officers must travel on non-reservation roads to get from one area to another. But whenever they did so using emergency lights, they were stopped and cited by the county for violating the state law.

In response, the tribal police were forced to remove the lights every time they left the reservation. The chief of the tribe's public safety department said this practice posed a danger to the officers and limited their ability to carry out their duties.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed in a decision released on November 3. Describing the removal of the lights as a "preposterous and time-consuming ritual," a panel of three judges held that the state law was "discriminatory" towards tribes because no other government is treated the same.

"It is clear that the challenged vehicle code sections do not treat the tribe’s police force the same as other law enforcement entities within California," Judge Harry Pregerson wrote for the majority. "California permits all state, county, and city law enforcement officials within the state to display and to use emergency light bars."

The decision overturned a federal judge's ruling that went in favor of the county. It also reversed a split May 2001 opinion from the 9th Circuit that said the tribe was subject to the state law.

The tribe sought a rehearing, as is common when a court is divided on an issue. In the meantime, the tribe entered into a deputization agreement with the Bureau of Indian Affairs that granted federal commissions to every tribal officer who met the requirements.

The agreement was key to the tribe's case. It led the California Highway Patrol to conclude the federal commissions meant the police officers are allowed to use their emergency lights off the reservation.

But the county balked and argued that the tribe's use of emergency lights would cause traffic, safety and other problems. The 9th Circuit rejected all of the county's arguments.

The court went further and embraced a view that tribal law enforcement is not absolutely limited by the boundaries of a reservation. In a Public Law 280 state like California, the holding appears to be landmark.

"Every law enforcement jurisdiction shares the same obligation and purpose: to protect and to serve their respective communities and citizens," the court said. "We agree with the BIA that the boundaries of Indian Country should not impede tribal officers’ travel, use of marked vehicles, emergency response, or other aspects of their policing authority necessary to meet the officers’ law enforcement obligations to their reservation community."

Over the years, law enforcement officials in California have clashed with tribes over the reach of state law on the reservation. In a highly-publicized incident that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, the sheriff in Inyo County raided a tribe's casino and used bolt-cutters to seize records.

Get the Decision:
Cabazon Band of Mission Indians v. Smith (November 3, 2004)

Relevant Links:
Cabazon Band of Mission Indians - http://www.cabazonindians-nsn.gov
National Native American Law Enforcement Association - http://www.nnalea.org
Riverside County Sheriff - http://www.riversidesheriff.org

Related Stories:
South Dakota challenge to tribes rejected by high court (10/19)
Morongo Band negotiates law enforcement compact (09/29)
Supreme Court rebuffs tribe in immunity case (5/20)
Tribal fears in Supreme Court case go unrealized (05/20)
S.D. puts pressure on tribal sovereignty (2/12)
State power over tribal government in dispute (12/03)
Supreme Court bars state officials from tribal suit (6/26)
O'Connor defends tribes amidst squabbling (6/26)

Copyright © 2000-2004 Indianz.Com
More headlines...
Stay Connected:
On Facebook

On Twitter

On Google+

On SoundCloud
Local Links:
Federal Register | Indian Gaming | Jobs & Notices | In The Hoop | Message Board
Latest News:
Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe seeks prayers ahead of pipeline hearing (8/23)
Second run scheduled to raise awareness of Gold King Mine disaster (8/23)
U.S. Sentencing Commission continues work of tribal advisory group (8/23)
Chemehuevi Tribe wins decision barring county from citing members (8/23)
Lakota Country Times: Oglala Sioux Tribe joins fight against pipeline (8/23)
Native Sun News: Mario Gonzales moves from ball court to law court (8/23)
Brandon Ecoffey: The Horse Nations prepare for battle over pipeline (8/23)
Steven Newcomb: Standing Rock Sioux Tribe challenges domination (8/23)
Simon Moya-Smith: Hillary Clinton remains silent amid pipeline feud (8/23)
Sheriff mistook sacred pipes for pipe bombs at pipeline protest site (8/23)
Charles Carlyle: Issues to consider when doing business with tribes (8/23)
Choctaw Nation starts work on expansion of casino by Texas border (8/23)
Judge rules against Miccosukee citizen in gaming per capita dispute (8/23)
Seneca Nation stopped paying $17M a year for casino police service (8/23)
First Nations ratify agreement for seventh casino in Saskatchewan (8/23)
Tribes prepare for critical hearing in Dakota Access Pipeline lawsuit (8/22)
Hillary Clinton lands more tribal leader endorsements in New Mexico (8/22)
Donald Trump picks Navajo man for agriculture advisory committee (8/22)
Laguna Pueblo signs deal to acquire commercial casino in Louisiana (8/22)
Mark Trahant: Pipeline fight highlights power of political organizing (8/22)
Lakota Country Times: Tribes unite to stop Dakota Access Pipeline (8/22)
Native Sun News: Black Elk Peak honors sanctity of Black Hills site (8/22)
Vi Waln: Our water system is being threatened by energy pipelines (8/22)
Jeffrey Whalen: Corruption alive and well within Oglala Sioux Tribe (8/22)
Winona LaDuke: Bigger problems ahead for Dakota Access Pipeline (8/22)
Dallas Goldtooth: Tribes shut out of Dakota Access Pipeline process (8/22)
Sen. Martin Heinrich: Return tribal property to their rightful owners (8/22)
Peter d'Errico: 'Friends' continue to embrace negative Indian policy (8/22)
Marc Simmons: Tribes developed own trade and commerce system (8/22)
Native mother reunites with children taken by government in 1960s (8/22)
Chippewa Cree family lays young loved one Reece Morsette to rest (8/22)
GOP candidate blames tribal culture for lack of economic 'success' (8/22)
Indian children over-represented in welfare system in Minnesota (8/22)
more headlines...

Home | Arts & Entertainment | Business | Canada | Cobell Lawsuit | Education | Environment | Federal Recognition | Federal Register | Forum | Health | Humor | Indian Gaming | Indian Trust | Jack Abramoff Scandal | Jobs & Notices | Law | National | News | Opinion | Politics | Sports | Technology | World

Indianz.Com Terms of Service | Indianz.Com Privacy Policy
About Indianz.Com | Advertise on Indianz.Com

Indianz.Com is a product of Noble Savage Media, LLC and Ho-Chunk, Inc.