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
Health Coverage for American Indians and Alaska Natives
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:
Native Democrats make urgent case for Hillary Clinton as president (7/28)
Mark Trahant: The story is far from over for Senator Bernie Sanders (7/28)
Native Sun News: Indian Health Service eyes new hospital in Rapid (7/28)
Brandon Ecoffey: Oglala Sioux Tribe must start fitness revolution (7/28)
Ivan Star Comes Out: Show respect for sacred Lakota family unit (7/28)
Gyasi Ross: It's gonna be awhile before the first Native president (7/28)
Harlan McKosato: Violence against Native people swept under rug (7/28)
Harold Monteau: Even more lessons in indigenous law and policy (7/28)
Indian Country shares spotlight at Democratic National Convention (7/27)
Recap: Native American Council at Democratic National Convention (7/27)
Lakota Country Times: SuAnne Big Crow Center focuses on fitness (7/27)
Native Sun News: Tribal college showcases works of Lakota artists (7/27)
Vi Waln: Too many of our own people continue to smoke cigarettes (7/27)
Andre Cramblit: Growing wiser in my return to Dartmouth College (7/27)
Indian Country makes presence known at Democratic convention (7/26)
Tim Giago: Questioning the motto of GOP candidate Donald Trump (7/26)
Lakota Country Times: Oglala team lands Indian relay title again (7/26)
Native Sun News: Tribes honor author of Indian Child Welfare Act (7/26)
Delphine Red Shirt: Let's eat food that's always been good for us (7/26)
Peter d'Errico: Luci Tapahonso tackles legacy of boarding schools (7/26)
Donald Trump tried to partner with Agua Caliente Band on casino (7/26)
Native American Council meets at Democratic National Convention (7/25)
Police officer cleared over fatal shooting of Navajo Nation woman (7/25)
Doug George-Kanentiio: Donald Trump and his campaign of hatred (7/25)
Native Sun News: Tribal advocate focuses on Great Plains efforts (7/25)
Lakota Country Times: Descendants of Pine Ridge legend gather (7/25)
Johnny Rustywire: Navajo mother works hard at motel for family (7/25)
Alex Jacobs: Nation finally admits problem with policing and race (7/25)
Dwaine Perry: Ramapough Lunaape Nation marching for justice (7/25)
Charges filed for assault on disabled member of Nisqually Tribe (7/25)
Man arrested for American Indian Movement flag settles lawsuit (7/25)
Interior Department consults tribes about new trust reform law (7/22)
Training sessions planned for final Indian Child Welfare Act rule (7/22)
Yurok Tribe shares sad news about salmon festival -- no salmon (7/22)
Mark Charles: An entire nation's big problem with Donald Trump (7/22)
Mark Trahant: Donald Trump promises a world with no treaties (7/22)
Native Sun News: Appeal delays release of Keepseagle checks (7/22)
Lakota Country Times: Oglala Sioux Tribe hosts walk for cancer (7/22)
James Giago Davies: Police officers get away with 'kill option' (7/22)
Andre Cramblit: Police officer shootings seem far too common (7/22)
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.