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State, Mohegans finalize agreement for policing tribal lands, casino

By Brian Hallenbeck

Publication: theday.com

Published May 28. 2014 4:58PM   Updated May 29. 2014 12:10AM

The state and the Mohegan Tribe have formalized an agreement granting tribal police a greater role in policing the tribe’s reservation, which encompasses Mohegan Sun.

In a statement, Dora Schriro, commissioner of the state Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, announced Wednesday that Chief State’s Attorney Kevin Kane and Mohegan Chairman Kevin Brown had joined her in signing a memorandum of agreement authorized by a law enacted last year.

“The Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection has enjoyed a long and positive working relationship with the Mohegan Tribe and looks forward to this new partnership,” Schriro said. “This agreement requires that the tribal police department will enforce the laws of Connecticut within its boundaries. It also provides that all tribal police officers be certified by the Connecticut Police Officer Standards and Training Council, as are all other municipal police officers.

“The Mohegan tribal police department and its officers will work with the Connecticut State Police, enhancing safety and security in the region.”

State troopers will maintain a presence at the casino, including in state-regulated gaming areas, and will be called in to investigate felonies and other major crimes, as the need arises, the statement said. An unspecified number of troopers who had been assigned to casino units will be redeployed elsewhere.

“The tribal police are very capable and will handle very well the day-to-day criminal law enforcement on the reservation, freeing up the Connecticut State Police to focus proactively on more complex investigations into criminal activity targeted at the casino,” Kane, the chief state’s attorney, said.

“The Mohegan tribe has always looked at public safety as paramount for visitors to our lands, our employees, and our tribal members,” Brown, the Mohegan chairman, said. “This is a great example of government-to-government relations to achieve this goal.”

Schriro’s department is working to finalize a comparable agreement with the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe, which owns and operates Foxwoods Resort Casino.

The Mashantuckets’ agreement has been complicated somewhat by the size of its reservation and the location of tribal housing, according to Bill Satti, the Mashantuckets’ director of public affairs. He said the state had requested a map of the reservation and didn’t provide a final draft of the agreement until late last week.

Satti said the deal should be finalized soon.

Even without signed agreements in place, the tribes indicated months ago that they were prepared to assume responsibility for policing the casinos. Under the agreements, tribal police will be able to arrest non-Indians on tribal lands, including inside the casinos, and deliver arrestees to state authorities for prosecution.

Up until now, tribal police have only been able to “detain” non-Indians for arrest by state police.

State authorities, for the first time, will accept tribal police reports as official records of arrest. It’s expected that the tribal departments will operate much like municipal police departments in other ways as well, such as abiding by state freedom of information requirements regarding media access to arrest logs.

Both tribal departments are mostly staffed by former state and municipal police officers.

The tribes, which had been paying for state police to patrol the casinos, had sought a greater role in policing as a way to save money. In fiscal 2011, tribal payments for police coverage totaled $7.3 million — $3.9 million from the Mashantuckets and $3.4 million from the Mohegans.

The tribes’ combined payments dropped to $4.7 million in fiscal 2012, to $4.2 million in fiscal 2013 and to $1.2 million in fiscal 2014.

The tribes will continue to pay state police for the background checks and investigations they conduct. 

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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