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INVESTIGATES: Tribal police expand reach after Supreme Court ruling

Posted at 1:57 PM, Oct 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-30 10:22:16-04

TULSA, Okla. — Thousands of miles of land in northeastern Oklahoma is now considered Indian territory.

The McGirt Supreme Court ruling re-established the boundaries of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation in July 2020. The decision impacts who investigates and prosecutes crimes committed within those boundaries.

READ MORE: Supreme Court rules much of eastern Oklahoma remains tribal reservation

The Muscogee (Creek) Nation Lighthorse Police Department now covers 11 counties in this part of Oklahoma.

Daniel Wind III was named chief of the Lighthorse Police Department right before the ruling and is now expanding the department at a rapid pace in response.

“On July 9, When the decision came down from the Supreme Court, immediately, what I was ecstatic about as tribal citizens, as an Muskogee citizen, I was very happy with it as a, as a new chief of police or acting chief of police," Wind said. "I was just even more excited but then things started rolling in and you realize, one this is historical, two nothing like this has ever happened and three, we got a lot of work ahead of us. “

Wind already grew the department from a 35 person department to a 65 person agency in just four months. The demand for officers and investigators from his department skyrocketed.

“One of the biggest changes has been the fact that we are answering a lot more calls," Wind said. "So, our call volume has quadrupled over the past four months. So, every month it's just been going up and up and up. “

The tribe is investing millions of dollars to facilitate the expansion. The funding is coming out in three phases. Phase one includes $2.2 million to get more boots on the ground.

The department is also working on expanding it’s cross deputization agreements between any and all departments within the reservation. Those agreements form a partnership and expand the reach of the department.

“The thing about the cross-deputization agreement that those officers, whether they be Broken Arrow, Tulsa, you know wherever they're at, when someone calls, they're acting under our cross, cross-deputization agreement cross commission. So, they're Lighthorse officers as well,” Wind said.

A large portion of the City of Tulsa and Tulsa County now exist within the reservation and adjusted seamlessly. The Tulsa Police Department began it’s partnership with the Lighthorse Police Department long before the ruling and said it’s more beneficial than ever now.

Every Tulsa police officer is now cross-deputized with tribal police in order to ensure the safety and swift response to all crimes committed in Tulsa. That partnership is also something the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office also already had in place.

“We have to work together and you know and these MOU’s or these cross-deputizations allow us to do that. So, it's extremely important,” Tulsa County Sheriff Vic Regelado said.

These partnerships also benefit to small departments who now have access to Muscogee (Creek) Nation resources.

“We have a dive team. We're working on our emergency response teams. We have community outreach officers. We have game rangers. We have investigators, canines, anything that you're going to find at a bigger department, we have here,” Wind said.

The tribe is working to make sure Lighthorse can expand to the community’s needs and will continue to roll out funding over the next two years. The expansion is not just for tribal citizens, but for all Oklahomans now living on Indian land.

“We are Oklahomans just like everybody else," Wind said. "We just happen to be on a reservation now.”

The Lighthorse Police Department needs more officers, detectives, administrators, dispatchers and staff:. Click here to apply. You must be 21 years or older, have a clean record, and you do not have to be a member of a tribe to apply.

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