War on drugs

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Lighthorse Tribal Police officer to be cross-deputized

ANADARKO, Okla. - The Muscogee (Creek) Nation finalized the deal between its Lighthorse Tribal Police and the Drug Enforcement Administration in which an officer would be cross-deputized as a federal agent beginning April 8. Muscogee Chief A.D. Ellis signed the agreement into law.

A selected Lighthorse Tribal Police officer will undergo federal training to become a DEA agent based out of the Tulsa task force office. The resolution was originally passed in the Muscogee (Creek) Council March 29 and had to wait for Ellis to sign the measure to become law.

;'It gives us a good insight to any intelligence the DEA has,'' said Lighthorse Tribal Police Chief Jack Shackelford. ''If we run across a case and want to take it to the federal authorities, with our officer up there, we can call that officer and say, 'Hey, look. This is what we've got.' This gives us better access to their information and their intelligence.''

This agreement is but the latest chapter in the history of the Lighthorse Tribal Police. The police force, originally formed after the Muscogee (Creek) Nation was removed by the federal government to Indian Territory, served in this capacity until the early 20th century, when the BIA took over law enforcement duties. In December 1991, the Lighthorse Tribal Police was revived and has since been the law enforcement organization of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation.

The officer selected for this training will continue to be on the Lighthorse Tribal Police payroll, with the Muscogee (Creek) Nation also handling benefits for the officer such as health insurance.

The idea for the agreement has been in the process for at least two years, with Shackelford and the Lighthorse Tribal Police staying in contact with DEA agent Ed Childers, who is also a member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. Shackelford said the DEA increased efforts within the Muscogee (Creek) Nation six months ago when the federal agency received a grant to work drug cases on federal land.

According to Shackelford, the agent appointed to undergo the training will be the first tribal police officer to be cross-deputized as a DEA agent.

The training that this agent will undergo includes Internet investigation and basic narcotics investigation, Childers said.

''There seemed to be a void between some of the law enforcement entities and the Indian nations,'' he said about the reasons for the program. ''There was some new management, not only here [in Tulsa] but in Dallas. We wanted to try and reach out and try to strengthen the relationships between DEA and the Indian nations. The drug problem is becoming so pervasive and severe. We wanted to make sure that we had very good open lines of communication.''

The jurisdiction of the Lighthorse Tribal Police includes the Oklahoma counties of Wagoner, Muskogee, McIntosh, Creek, Okmulgee, Okfuskee, Hughes and Tulsa, and portions of Rogers and Mayes counties. This area includes the Tulsa metropolitan area.

The police force has a staff of 39 working to uncover trafficking with two major substances that overlap with the DEA: marijuana and methamphetamine. This is in addition to crack cocaine, which Shackelford said can be found in the Tulsa area.

Childers said that the benefits of having a tribal police agent working in conjunction with the DEA have far-reaching consequences.

''We're going to be able to make much more of an impact than them working, pretty much, on their own and us working on our own.''

''We're going to be able to blend these two agencies to really address and really bring to the forefront the issues that are facing Indian nations. We hope to spread this out and use it like a pilot program to show to other areas of the United States where they have DEA and other Indian nations sharing the same territory.''