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Sheriff's pursuits stop at Red Lake Reservation border

BEMIDJI - That Beltrami County deputies lack jurisdiction on the Red Lake Reservation concerns county commissioners when the tribe opens its new casino.

Commissioners on Tuesday night approved upgrades to the Beltrami County Sheriff's Department Policy Manual that includes procedures involving the Red Lake Reservation.

"Pursuits onto the reservation are no longer allowed," the manual states. "You must terminate the pursuit at the reservation line. If you are pursuing toward Red Lake, notify their dispatcher as soon as is possible and they will send officers, if available."

While the policy, dated March 3, basically was written to cover lights-and-sirens pursuit of a vehicle heading onto the reservation, commissioners said the lack of a law enforcement agreement with the Red Lake Nation could pose problems at the band's new casino now under construction.

The casino/hotel./water park is located on the reservation at the reservation line along state Highway 89. The parking lot to the complex is south of that, in Beltrami County. It means if an altercation is occurring in the parking lot, Beltrami County deputies would have jurisdiction, not tribal police.

And, if the altercation moves into the casino. Beltrami County deputies couldn't do anything but inform Red Lake police.

Commissioner Quentin Fairbanks, who represents the Red Lake Reservation, said he believes tribal authorities may seek to put the parking lot into trust land, but that procedure could take years as it needs U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs approval.

"That actually might be the best route," said County Administrator Tony Murphy, "as then they would have full jurisdiction over the whole operation."

According to the sheriff's policy, deputies driving through, or onto, the reservation for routine activities, must call the Beltrami County dispatcher and ask them to notify Red Lake authorities that a deputy is entering the reservation and for what purpose. Likewise, Red Lake PD needs to be notified when the deputy leaves the reservation.

County sheriff's investigators doing work that necessitates that they enter the reservation must also notify Red Lake authorities and request a tribal officer accompany them.

"Do not go onto the reservation to conduct enforcement business without Red Lake Tribal PD's assistance and authorization," the policy manual states.

The policy also calls for Red Lake Tribal Police officers pursuing a vehicle from the reservation into the county to continue that pursuit until a Beltrami County deputy can assume the primary pursuit. Once stopped, if the offender is American Indian, tribal policy may be allowed to take them into custody and take them back to the reservation.

If the offender has charges pending in Beltrami County, then the county can take custody and not returned to Red Lake authorities until prosecution of those charges is completed.

"If the offender is not native American and Beltrami County does not have additional charges, the Red Lake officer shall make the arrest (under state law provisions for) 'arrests by a private person,'" it said. "Once that arrest is made, Beltrami County authorities shall take custody of the offender. Red Lake law enforcement shall submit all reports to the Beltrami County Sheriff's Office and Beltrami County Attorney's Office for review and prosecution."

Also, the manual states that Red Lake police doing investigations off the reservation must contact the Sheriff's Office, which will assign an investigator to work with them and prepare and execute any needed search warrants.

If tribal police observe a violation on the reservation by a non-Indian, they can stop the offender but then must submit a report to the Beltrami County Sheriff's Office at which time a sergeant will determine if a citation should be issued, if further investigation is needed, or if it should be submitted to the county attorney for review or charges.

The current Sheriff's Office Policy Manual was implemented in 2007, Sheriff Phil Hodapp told commissioners. "These are simple updates to the most recent policy manual -- most of it is the same as two years ago," he said.

The upgrades include a number of areas, such as hiring and promotional procedures, radar procedure, vehicle theft/bait car procedure, complaint procedures, general regulations and disciplinary action, non-disciplinary actions/coaching plans, performance reviews, missing/endangered children, canine officer, and more.

With a stiffer county ordinance procedure for new liquor license applications, an upgrade includes new liquor license applicants background investigation policy.

The vehicle theft/bait car procedure outlines policy when implementing the Bait Vehicle Program, where cars are placed in "hot spots" for serial offenders. The cars are equipped with Global Positioning Systems, covert audio/video recordings and remote control of the horn, door locks and engine.

"This program will enable suspects to be apprehended in a safe and controlled manner, eliminating the need to pursue the vehicle," states the policy.

"I went over this with a fine-tooth comb," said Commissioner Fairbanks of the policy manual upgrades. He is a retired Minnesota state trooper. "It is a good guide, a really good guide for our deputies. It will be a living document."

"It is our intent for our deputies to use it," Hodapp said, adding that an online version is available for deputies to consult at any time.