By Angel Ellis, Reporter
OKLAHOMA CITY— The MCN National Council approved a supplemental appropriation for the MCN Lighthorse on Aug. 4 that would allow a substantial expansion for the department’s staff after the recent SCOTUS opinion confirming the reservation boundaries of the MCN is still intact.
“What we are asking for is the supplemental budget to bring on 39 additional officers and support staff,” Lighthorse Chief Daniel Wind said. “The department is giving 100% of their energy and it is taking a toll.”
According to Wind, staff will include 10 investigators, 6 dispatchers, 20 officers, a clerk and two captains.
Wind said that the MCN Lighthorse has had to cover more area since the SCOTUS opinion.
“This will help us make sure our department does not get too overworked,” Wind said.
In addition to the extra workload, Wind said his department has been impacted by COVID-19. Wind was actually in quarantine for COVID-19 attending the meeting remotely. Wind is not the only member of the department to have been affected.
Okfuskee District -Seat B Representative Travis Scott asked Wind if all his staff were currently patrolling and if the department had to incur a lot of overtime.
Wind said that the department is unable to do overtime pay. His department instead reimburses time with comp time.
“Everyone is definitely, lending a hand, it’s particularly hard on our dispatch and records manager,” Wind said.
Tulsa District–Seat B Representative Lucian Tiger III asked about the hiring process timeline of new officers.
Wind said that he estimated the staff onboarding could be complete within the next three months.
Rep. Tiger said that he was not in support of carrying the funds forward as the legislation allowed. He asked what amount of funding was needed to get the department through the remaining of FY 2019-2020 budget.
Wind said that had done figures for a backup plan to get the department through the next few months with less staff. But that with all the equipment, vehicles and supplies, and that if those funds were allocated the money would be expended within the next 60 days.
Principal Chief David Hill told the council that so far, each department other than, tribal courts, MCN Attorney General, Social Services, and MCN Lighthorse are being asked to make a ten percent cut to their budgets.
This adjustment would be used to offset the projected increased needs in the tribal courts, MCN Attorney General, Social Services, and MCN Lighthorse. He said the estimated shortfalls range from a low estimate of $2M and a high estimate of $10M.
Tukuputce District-Seat A Representative Anna Marshall asked about the cooperation between non-tribal agencies.
“Are you having a lot of cooperation between the local police departments and county sheriffs, are they able to help out,” Marshal said.
Wind said that there was cooperation but some agencies that have not cross-deputized before or are new to cross deputation are unsure of how to proceed with calls and forward them to the MCN Lighthorse.
“We have been making the rounds during the week as much as we can to explain what is happening,” Wind said. “Some of the smaller counties are still calling us and our mandate is to respond.”
Wind said that daily his department is called out and then his department calls out the FBI.
In addition to the increase in staff with Lighthorse, other signs indicate that the tribe is bolstering its justice systems. A new appointment to the judicial branch, increasing the interagency agreements between tribal law enforcement and state, county and cities, and new legislation for child welfare services are few of the areas the tribe is focusing its attention. Additionally, the Principal Chief has a set a commission to report on current needs and strategies.
One such interagency agreement for Lighthorse took place on July 16. Wagoner County Sheriff Chris Elliott met with Creek Nation Lighthorse Tribal Police Chief Daniel Wind to discuss the SCOTUS decision.
The two entities discussed the plans for them to work together to provide law enforcement in the area’s where their jurisdictions overlap.
For Wagoner County, the two agencies determined that the best way for the safety and security of the public to be maintained was through cross deputation.
‘While some subjects remain up in the air, one remains the same, Sheriff Elliott and the Wagoner County Sheriff’s Office are committed to the safety and security of our citizens,’ the sheriffs’ statement said. ‘To this end, all WCSO Deputies have been cross-deputized with the Creek Nation, and likewise the Creek Nation Lighthorse are being cross-deputized in Wagoner County.’
‘This allows both agencies to work together seamlessly in keeping our people safe.’
While the tribe is early into the budgeting for the FY2020-21, there has been a preliminary estimation of what the cost of the sovereign justice system expansions could have on the tribe.
Not all law enforcement agencies are as quick to enter into the collaborative agreements with the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. The tribe has yet to make any agreements with any law enforcement agencies in Okmulgee Co.
Mvskoke Media will continue to follow the impacts of the SCOTUS opinion reaffirming the MCN reservation boundaries and make updates as they become available.