Law enforcement agencies across Oklahoma are working to move forward following a significant ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court last year.
On July 9 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that the Muscogee (Creek) reservation was never disestablished.
It’s a ruling that has a big impact on the state’s criminal justice system.
“For anybody that has an Indian card, a CDIB card, a certified degree of Indian blood,” Native American law attorney Robert Gifford told KFOR. “If they are within the Creek Nation, the state of Oklahoma had no jurisdiction over them.”
As it stands, these decisions alter the State’s legal jurisdiction and law enforcement capabilities on a significant portion of eastern Oklahoma, creating uncertainty for many Oklahomans.
Now, law enforcement agencies are working to find better ways to take dangerous criminals off of the streets.
Law enforcement in Johnston County has a shared responsibility between its sheriff’s department and the Chickasaw Nation Lighthorse Police since 2006.
Officials say their cross-deputation agreement is one of the first in the 13-county tribal territory.
“As far as I’m concerned, I don’t think cross-deputization agreements are beneficial; I think they’re essential, especially after McGirt takes effect. I don’t think you’ll be able to operate effectively without it,” said Sheriff Gary Dodd.
Dodd says that cross-deputations allow sheriffs to serve Native citizens in their counties, while tribal law enforcement has the ability to deal with non-Natives off of tribal property.
“Law enforcement officers should not be disrupted or interfered with while conducting their duties and investigations,” he said. “I cannot stress enough how important it is for these agreements to be of mutual respect and understanding on both sides.”
Chickasaw Nation Police Chief Mike Manning says working without such an arrangement can make life extremely difficult for all parties.
“Ultimately, our goal every day is to make sure the citizens that we have been charged with protecting receive that protection,” Manning said. “Without a cross-deputation agreement in place, it’s like trying to change a flat while the car is moving. There’s a constant struggle.”
This story is part of the Oklahoma Media Center’s Promised Land collaborative effort, which shows how the landmark McGirt v. Oklahoma decision will affect both tribal and non-Indigenous residents in the state.
It is a project of the Local Media Foundation with support from the Inasmuch Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation and the Democracy Fund. The print, digital and broadcast media partners include: CNHI Oklahoma, Cherokee Phoenix, Curbside Chronicle, The Frontier, Gaylord News, Griffin Communications, KFOR, KGOU, KOSU, The Lawton Constitution, Moore Monthly, Mvskoke Media, the Native American Journalists Association, NonDoc, The O’Colly, Oklahoma City Free Press, The Oklahoma Eagle, Oklahoma Gazette, The Oklahoman, Oklahoma Watch, Osage News, StateImpact Oklahoma, Tulsa World, Telemundo Oklahoma, University of Oklahoma Student Media and Verified News Network.