State, local and tribal law enforcement agencies reached an agreement allowing officers from each agency to be full deputies in each other's jurisdictions. The agencies called the agreement a landmark. Attorney General Joe Mazurek, whose Justice Department includes the Montana Highway Patrol, said it "will vastly improve law enforcement coverage in this large, sparsely populated area of Montana." The agreement will be signed April 26 by the Fort Peck Tribes, the BIA, the cities of Poplar and Wolf Point, the Roosevelt County sheriff's office and the Montana Highway Patrol. Certified tribal officers will be commissioned by the other jurisdictions, giving them the same authority as the commissioning jurisdiction. Tribal officers issue traffic tickets to non-Indians and arrest non-Indians under the same conditions as nontribal law officers. Commissioned tribal officers also may transport non-Indian who've been arrested to the Roosevelt County or appropriate city jail. State and local officers who complete the Criminal Jurisdiction in Indian Country course under BIA guidelines can be commissioned by the tribes to enforce tribal laws against tribal members, and take Indians who have been arrested to the tribal jail.
Twenty new police officers will begin working on the reservation by the end of the year, tripling the size of the overburdened force, tribal Police Chief Calvin Red Thunder said. The new officers, financed by a three-year, $2.3 million federal grant, will help the agency improve its response time, provide round-the-clock emergency service and enable the start of neighborhood watch groups. Fort Peck's current 11 officers serve a 4,050-square-mile reservation with an American Indian population of 10,600. Red Thunder said at times there has been only one officer on duty across the entire reservation for an eight-hour shift. The grant also will provide 10 new vehicles, weapons and equipment to the department, which has needed help for a long time, Red Thunder said. "It's been one of the things that's been missing here - a full staff," he said. "Now it's up to us to put the operation into full motion once we get everything situated." He said a top priority will be attacking the drug trafficking in Poplar, the center of the drug trade on the reservation.