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Mashantucket Pequot Tribe finalizes agreement with state to police tribal lands

By Greg Smith

Publication: theday.com

Published August 01. 2014 3:03PM   Updated August 02. 2014 12:21AM

The state and Mashantucket Pequot Tribe finalized an agreement Friday granting the tribal police department powers that are on par with any municipal police department in Connecticut.

Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection Commissioner Dr. Dora B. Schriro announced that a Memorandum of Agreement was signed with her agency, the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe and the Chief State’s Attorney’s Office establishing the authority of the tribal police department and tribal police officers.

“The State of Connecticut has enjoyed a long and positive working relationship with the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe and looks forward to this new partnership in law enforcement,” Schriro said in a statement. “This agreement requires that that the Tribal police department will enforce the laws of Connecticut and the United States within its boundaries.”

A swearing-in ceremony took place at the Mashantucket Pequot Museum with Schriro, Chief State’s Attorney Kevin Kane, Mashantucket Tribal Chairman Rodney Butler and local town leaders.

Rodney Butler, in a statement, said the tribe was pleased to have finalized the “historic piece of legislation.”

“As a Tribal Nation, we fully believe that the strong government-to-government relationship that both the Tribe and the State maintain is key in our everyday interactions,” Rodney said in the statement. “I would also like to personally thank the Tribal Council, the Malloy Administration, the Legislature and most importantly the men and women that protect us each and every day for their key roles in making this agreement a reality.”

The agreement is similar in nature to one signed by the Mohegan Tribe on May 28 which granted their officers the same policing powers. Both agreements stipulate that all tribal police officers be certified by the Connecticut Police Officer Standards and Training (POST) Council, as are all other municipal police officers in the state. Previous to the agreements, both Mohegan and Mashantucket Tribal Police could hold and detain a criminal suspect but turned over arrestees for processing by state police.

“We’ve been waiting a long time for this,” said Mashantucket Tribal Police Chief William Dittman.

Dittman, who retired as a captain with the New London Police Department in 2012 and took over as chief shortly after, said he was the first POST-certified officer at the department.

All existing officers under him have been POST trained and certified in anticipation of the agreement. The department now boasts 25 officers, which includes a large number of retired state and municipal officers.

One major difference between the two tribal departments leading up to the agreement was that Mashantucket Tribal police, who are certified through the state Bureau of Indian Affairs, were making criminal arrests of Native Americans. The arrests went through a tribal court system.

The tribal court system still exists, but under the new agreement all arrests, including those of Native Americans, will be referred to state court for prosecution.

Schriro said state troopers will maintain a presence at both casinos, “focusing on gambling related crimes, investigating felonies and other major crimes, as the need arises.”

The jurisdiction of the tribal police department is limited to reservation land.

g.smith@theday.com

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