Cherokee tribe making agreements with surrounding agencies

Friday, March 30th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. (AP) _ The Cherokee Nation has signed agreements that allow law officers in some surrounding counties to enforce laws on tribal land.

But one county not taking part in the cross-deputization agreement is Cherokee County, where the tribe is based. The snag is a lawsuit filed by the current Cherokee chief as the result of his arrest at the tribal court house in 1997.

Principal Chief Chad Smith, who was not chief at the time, was arrested and charged in state district court with assault and battery on a police officer and inciting a riot. He sued the county, claiming sheriff's deputies were trespassing on Indian land when they confronted him.

District Attorney Dianne Barker Harrold said Thursday she will not enter into a cross-deputization agreement with the tribe until the lawsuit and criminal charges are cleared up.

Barker Harrold's jurisdiction includes Cherokee, Wagoner, Adair and Sequoyah counties.

The tribe's marshal service signed cross-deputization agreements Thursday with Gene Haynes, district attorney for Rogers, Mayes and Craig counties.

The agreements give sheriff's deputies in those counties, as well as the district attorney's task force, the authority to enforce laws on Cherokee land. Without an agreement, only the Cherokee Marshal Service has jurisdiction or arrest powers.

The arrangement also means the marshals can assist local law enforcement officers when requested on non-Indian land. The tribe has similar agreements with Muskogee and Delaware counties.

``It eliminates a lot of confusion,'' said Dave Roberts, director of the marshal service. ``Officers won't have to worry whether they are on Indian land and they can just enforce the law.''

Expertise in drug investigations and an investigative team developed by the Cherokee Marshal Service also will be available to the counties.

The tribe wants to activate joint-deputization agreements in all of its northeastern Oklahoma counties.