Disclose all tribal police records

The fact that tribal police do not have to publicly disclose information about its investigations into noncriminal matters must be an oversight. There is certainly no logical reason to exempt such information from disclosure.

Day Staff Writer Brian Hallenbeck, who reports on the casinos and tribal issues, sought the report from the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Police Department into its investigation of a woman’s fatal fall from an escalator at the Foxwoods Resort Casino in October.

This would be a routine request for a municipal police department, which would be required to disclose that information in accordance with the Freedom of Information law.

But the tribal department declined the request and withheld the police report.

We recognize that the Mashantucket and Mohegan tribes, as sovereign entities, do not have to adhere to the FOI law. But in 2014, the tribes signed separate agreements that established the tribal police departments’ authority to police their reservations, including the ability to arrest non-tribal members, an authority previously held only by State Police and federal authorities.

This newspaper supported the extended arrest and policing authority for tribal police when the tribes proposed the change, but with the understanding that they would operate as municipal departments, including in terms of transparency.

The 2014 memorandum of agreement, however, states only that the Mashantucket and Mohegan police “shall be subject to and comply with all requirements applicable to municipal police departments (concerning) … disclosure of criminal investigation records and arrest data.”

A fall, or a pool drowning, or an accidental electrocution, or any another number of “accidents” appear exempt from the disclosure requirements unless they involve crimes.

This situation makes no sense and should be corrected, which would appear to require a renegotiation with the tribes leading to an amendment to the memorandum of agreement.

Understandably, tragic accidents are not the sort of thing a casino wants to publicize. But the clear understanding when the state agreed to provide tribal police with expanded authority is that they would function as other departments and not act as protectors of the images of the Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun casinos.

Make tribal police records open — all of them.

 

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Pat Richardson, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, retired Day editor Lisa McGinley, Managing Editor Tim Cotter and Staff Writer Julia Bergman. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.

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