Oklahoma law enforcement agencies are making changes to how they operate after the Supreme Court ruled much of Eastern Oklahoma remains Indian territory when it comes to prosecuting cases.
Muskogee Police said they are actively working with tribal, state, and federal authorities to make sure native Americans' rights are protected in light of the McGirt ruling.
"We are working closely with both Creek Nation and Cherokee Nation to make sure that, as a whole, the community is taken care of,” said Chief Johnny Tehee, Muskogee Police Department.
Muskogee Police said starting Thursday, July 16 they will consistently document tribal memberships, whether it be in a police report or noted on the bottom of a citation. Suspects do not have to provide immediate proof of tribal membership, but they will later down the line in court.
"We've got to get them into the habit of initially asking regardless of circumstance,” said Chief Johnny Tehee. “If it's an enforcement type situation, they've got to ask, 'Are you a member of a federally recognized Native American tribe?'"
Teehee said he wants the public to know that the McGirt ruling isn't a get out of jail free card for Native Americans.
"It means that it may redirect or have the ability to re-try in a different court rather than the state court that you're originally sentenced under," Teehee said.
Muskogee Police are ahead of the curve on being cross-deputized with both the Muskogee Creek Nation and Cherokee Nation. Meaning, they have the ability to enforce and investigate crime on tribal territory.
"Right now, if we have like a major crime—a robbery, or a homicide, a rape, and it's either a native victim or a native suspect—then we would contact those law enforcement agencies to give them the notice of what has happened and see if they want to come out to work with us side by side," Teehee said.
Officers said there's still a lot of gray area, but they want to be proactive in protecting and serving the people of Muskogee.