Clallam considers law enforcement pact with Makah

PORT ANGELES — The Clallam County commissioners will consider a contract with the Makah tribe for mutual law enforcement assistance during a virtual joint session with the Makah Tribal Council set for 10 a.m. Tuesday.

The joint session will be during the commissioners meeting at the Clallam County Courthouse, 223 E. Fourth St. in Port Angeles.

Sheriff Brian King told the commissioners at their Nov. 20 work session, “Effectuating effective law enforcement requires partnerships, particularly with our tribal partners. There are a complex array of jurisdictional challenges that exist both on and off the reservations when we go to enforce the laws.”

A 2008 state law allowed tribal police officers to act as “general authority Washington state peace officers.”

According to a staff memo, “The agreement establishes a process by which the Makah Tribal Police Chief may grant Tribal Police Commissions to members of the Clallam County Sheriff’s Office and the Clallam County Sheriff’s Office may grant law enforcement commissions to members of the Makah Tribe’s Police Department.”

Said King: “And myself, being a former tribal police officer and, I’m sure, Undersheriff Cameron, being a former tribal police officer, we are well aware of those challenges. And those challenges are simply that the state of Washington and tribes have never been able to achieve general authority.

“So, the same authority that I have for enforcing the law, the tribes don’t have the ability to do so,” King continued. “So the Legislature has given us a path moving forward and now we can enter into these interlocal cooperative agreements to be able to get them the police powers that they need in order to affect law enforcement on the reservations as well as a path moving forward for tribal police officers to assist us off reservation.”

Clallam County Commission Chairman Mark Ozias asked if this agreement was “substantively different” from the one the commissioners reviewed recently that provided sheriff’s deputies to the Jamestown S’Klallam tribe.

The difference is that the county provides policing services for the Jamestown S’Klallam, King said.

“So Native and non-Native individuals who violate the law on the reservation, particularly the Jamestown, we have concurrent jurisdiction. We have jurisdiction over both,” King said.

King said the proposed agreement with the Makah has no budgetary costs; it just gives Makah police officers police powers.

“We see this, especially with the Makah, with how isolated the Makah is. For example, the big slide last year. You know, we are going to rely on them as partners if (Highway) 112 is interrupted,” King said.

“We can’t get to the reservation,” King said. “They are going to have to be able to effectuate law enforcement for both Native and non-Native people. So this is specific to that,” he said.

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Reporter Brian Gawley can be reached at brian.gawley@peninsuladailynews.com.

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