Malloy, like Rowland, bows to tribal pressure to withdraw police

It's a puzzle to me why Gov. Malloy would be so insistent about withdrawing a sizeable portion of the Connecticut State Police presence at the state's two Indian casinos when the tribes are clearly responsible for continuing to pay for it.

Not only is it strange that the governor would be so willing to diminish the state's police coverage of these two enormous gambling joints, but in order to do it he has to ask the legislature to convey on tribal police extraordinary authority over non-Indians.

Mashantucket Pequot Chairman Rodney Butler, while swearing in some of the new tribal police officers he hopes will soon be able to arrest non-Indians, called the governor's plan a "novel initiative" and historic.

The head of the police union, on the other hand, calls the proposal a dangerous threat to public safety. Worse, he notes, you shouldn't have casinos policing themselves.

"It's like allowing a private corporation to have their own police department," Andy Matthews, president of the state police union, told the Associated Press.

Not only does Gov. Malloy want to subject us all to this bold experiment, but he wants to give new authority to a Pequot tribal police department with a history of alleged favoritism toward tribal members, albeit one that is now undergoing a reform program.

It is also a department that is overseen by a tribal member who is a convicted felon.

Why?

It's a question lawmakers should make the governor answer, because, so far, he hasn't offered a good reason.

Gov. Malloy is not the first Connecticut governor to be asked to call back Connecticut police.

Former Pequot Tribal Chairman Richard Hayward complained in 1996 to then Gov. John Rowland that Connecticut police were exceeding their authority in investigating possible corruption in casino management, including allegations of organized crime.

In a series of full-page ads in Connecticut newspapers, the tribe mocked police and accused them of "sneaking around in the dark" while conducting a search of executive offices at the casino.

One trooper, who had already brought corruption charges against one casino employee, was investigated for wrongdoing after tribal officials complained to Gov. Rowland about his conduct.

The governor also transferred out of the casino two officers who were involved in criminal investigations of executives.

In the end, though, Kevin Kane, who was then the lead prosecutor for New London County, cleared the trooper of any wrongdoing in investigating casino executives, saying there was "no evidence of criminal behavior - period."

Not long after, casino management changed. Tribal leadership changed. And Connecticut police continued to oversee the casino, abiding by the terms of the court-imposed compact that gives the tribe a right to conduct gambling in the first place.

Some state leaders sympathetic to Gov. Malloy's plan suggest it is a way for the financially strapped tribes to save money, since tribal police officers are paid less than the senior Connecticut troopers assigned to the casinos.

It's fine for Connecticut to try to help the casinos save money, but not when it compromises public safety or the integrity of casino games in which tens of millions of dollars routinely change hands.

Prosecutor Kane, now the chief state's attorney for Connecticut, told a General Assembly hearing last week that he has long opposed expanded tribal police powers. But he said he has had a change of heart and now believes tribes are more willing to adhere to state laws and policies.

I think Kane should take a trip down memory lane and refresh his recollection about a time not so long ago when tribal officials were using the governor in an end-game around police authority.

And state lawmakers should quickly move to stop the governor from moving forward with this "novel initiative."

This is the opinion of David Collins

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