PORT ANGELES — The Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe and Clallam County are finalizing a cross-deputization agreement that officials said has been in the works for several years.
Chief Criminal Deputy Brian King told commissioners Tuesday that, if approved by commissioners and the tribal council, the agreement will allow sheriff’s deputies to enforce laws on tribal lands and allow tribal officers to enforce laws in the county.
“It provides general authority powers to the Elwha as well as the powers of tribal officers when we are operating on the reservation,” King said.
What that means, as an example, an officer from the Elwha Police Department can stop drunk drivers who are not on tribal land.
“Clearly, we have noticed that criminals don’t recognize jurisdictional boundaries,” Clallam County Sheriff Bill Benedict said. “If we can enhance public safety through not letting folks slip through the cracks, that’s big.”
Commissioner will consider approving the contract during their meeting Monday. The tribal council is expected to consider the contract in early December.
Elwha Police Chief Sam White attended Tuesday’s meeting and told commissioners that the tribe has recently developed a new policy manual and raised the level of training for officers.
In October members of White’s entire department, which is now mostly made up of new hires, took their oath under the new policies.
“We’ve done a lot of steps in the short amount of time I have been here,” said White, who started as chief in March.
According to the Port Angeles Police Department, White and two other officers were sworn into PAPD as special commission police officers last week. This allows the officers to respond in the city when staffing is limited or multiple emergencies happen at the same time.
King said that one of the hangups on developing a contract that both parties could agree to was the indemnification clause.
This agreement says that officers’ and deputies’ respective departments are liable for their actions, King said.
Tribal Prosecutor Diane Cabrera told commissioners the agreement will complement a federal program with the Department of Justice and that the tribe is better positioned in terms of law enforcement than it ever has been before.
“This is a long time coming,” Cabrera said, adding that conversations about the agreement started in 2014. “We want to make sure that we are there for any sister agency that needs us, and vice versa.”
Benedict said the agreement “cements” the working relationship his office has had with the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe.
“We’ve always had a very close relationship,” Benedict said. “I’m very happy to memorialize this and move forward.”
Benedict said he would like to see similar agreements with West End tribes as well.
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].