Berrien County, Pokagon tribal police cross-deputize officers
By By JOHN EBY / Niles Daily Star
ST. JOSEPH -- Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians Chairman John Miller and Berrien County Sheriff L. Paul Bailey Wednesday morning signed a law enforcement agreement to cross-deputize law officers for the Tribal Police Department and the Sheriff's Department.
Under this new agreement, six future officers of the Pokagon Band Police Department will have the authority to enforce state and local law off tribal lands, if requested.
Officers from the Berrien County Sheriff's Department will likewise have the authority to enforce state laws on tribal land in Berrien County at the request of the Band.
Tribal jurisdiction in Berrien County consists of the 675 acres in New Buffalo Township where the Pokagon Band hopes to open its Four Winds Casino in 2005.
Pokagon Band Police Capt. Mike Jungel said at a news conference in Bailey's office, "This agreement will benefit both the county's Indian and non-Indian citizens and will allow our Tribal Police Department and the Berrien County Sheriff's Department to assist each other in protecting and serving our local communities."
Jungel, 57, of Vicksburg, formerly served as Portage assistant police chief. He became Pokagon Band captain in May. He estimated it will take 12 months to hire officers, to put together policies and procedures which meet Bureau of Indian Affairs standards and to set up the department on M-51. The force has four vehicles -- three Tahoes and an Impala.
Cross-deputization agreements between tribal police departments and local/state police departments are common. Such agreements help to overcome jurisdictional issues that may hamper effective law enforcement in Indian country.
Asked about the status of the casino, Miller responded, "Not to deter from today's festivities, but in a nutshell we received a judge's opinion last January where he wanted us to secure a couple of things based on environmental impact, cumulative impact and secondary impacts on the environment. We secured those and submitted a supplemental EA (environmental assessment) to the (Bureau of Indian Affairs). Right now we're awaiting a FONSI (Finding of No Significant Impact) on that information we just submitted. We anticipate we should get that within the next couple of weeks.
Miller added, "If we can get a decision early next year, we can mobilize and get the facility constructed inside of 14 months. Best-case scenario, maybe we can open up the early part of 2005. But I've told you before, 'Early 2002, 2003, 2004, now it's 2005. To tell you the truth, we don't know an exact date until we start."
There are 2,764 tribal members of the Pokagon Band, based at 58620 Sink Road, Pokagon Township, Dowagiac.
Approximately 1,833 of the 2,764 members live in Michigan and Indiana.
The Pokagon Band has 10-county service area in northwest Indiana and southwest Michigan that includes Cass, Berrien, Allegan and Van Buren counties in Michigan and Elkhart, Kosciusko, LaPorte, Marshall, Starke and St. Joseph counties in Indiana.
The Pokagon Band has no land holdings in Allegan County, but does in the Hartford area of Van Buren County, in North Liberty, Ind., and, of course, in Cass County, where "Sheriff Joe Underwood is reviewing" a similar agreement to offer to the Board of Commissioners for approval, Miller said.