On Friday, August 1, 27 members of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Police received the power to arrest non-Natives on tribal land. “Up until now they could only hold and detain non-tribal members until the state police could come and make the arrest,” William Satti, director of public affairs for the Mashantucket Pequot Nation, said at a swearing-in ceremony heralding the event.
In preparation, the tribal police were certified by the Police Officer Standards and Training Council, which will increase the presence of personnel in the area and will complement the state and local police forces in eastern Connecticut.
A bill was enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives stating that a law enforcement unit of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe and the Mohegan Tribe of Indians of Connecticut has the same enforcement powers as the State Police and local police departments. On May 28, a comparable agreement had been executed with the Mohegan Tribal Nation.
“It's a special day, a big deal day,” Dora B. Schriro, Commissioner of the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, said. “The Connecticut State Police and the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Police Department will partner, enhancing safety and security in the region.”
Chief of Police William Dittman said the tribal police will now have jurisdiction on felonies anywhere in the state of Connecticut, and will have the same powers as any municipal police department in the state, improving the safety and the risk factor for both the officers and the public. “At this point, we now have many more officers on duty than we ever had state officers on duty,” he said. Dittman, who recently underwent surgery for cancer, celebrated his first day back on the job with the ceremony.
Captain Katie Tougas, of the MPTPD, said many of the tribal police officers have already spent years in law enforcement. “I think that it will be very successful, and I think there will be a lot less stress. They have been waiting for this for a long time. I’ve been there 20 years, and it’s been a long time coming.”
“We are pleased that we have finalized this historic piece of legislation by signing this MOA today with the State of Connecticut. As a Tribal Nation, we fully believe that the strong government-to-government relationship that both the tribe and the state maintain is key in our everyday interactions,” said Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Chairman Rodney Butler.
Connecticut Chief State’s Attorney Kevin Kane, Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation Chairman Rodney Butler, and Commissioner of the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection Dora B. Schriro, sign the Memorandum of Agreement allowing the tribe’s police force to assume all duties enjoyed by municipal forces.
When the casinos first opened, the towns of Ledyard and North Stonington worried about the impact the casinos would have on their towns. Concerns of prostitution and burglaries were feared but according to studies those problems never materialized. Crime did increase, but only in keeping with the population growth. According to a report issued by Harvard, the number of crimes per 1,000 residents actually declined.
Tougas said the casinos have worked hard to forge a good working relationship with the towns. “I believe we try to work together. With all the cuts in the area, having any amount of increased law enforcement should be beneficial,” she said.
Things seem better now than they were in previous years, and Tougas said the Connecticut State Police have done an excellent job in the casinos. “The difference now is that these are guys who will be here every day and will know everything that’s going on; it will be consistent.”
Connecticut Chief State’s Attorney Kevin Kane, said, “This is a really big step. It sets up a formalized relationship, a structure. It is the perfect way to go about letting the tribe and the state protect the safety of the community, the people, the public, of everybody here—and doing this in an equal and fair manner.
“It is an agreement that respects the authority of both sovereigns, here in the state of Connecticut and the Mashantucket Tribal Nation. Everybody has come a long way,” Kane said.