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Bill recognizes tribal law enforcement, allows cooperation

A bill to promote mutual aid between tribal and local law enforcement passed the Senate today and will head to Governor Doyle for his signature, Sen. Bob Jauch, D-Poplar, and Rep. Ann Hraychuck, D-Balsam Lake, said Tuesday.

A bill to promote mutual aid between tribal and local law enforcement passed the Senate today and will head to Governor Doyle for his signature, Sen. Bob Jauch, D-Poplar, and Rep. Ann Hraychuck, D-Balsam Lake, said Tuesday.

The two lawmakers have been working to establish the mutual aid language since October 2008 when the state Attorney General issued a legal opinion indicating that state mutual assistance statutes do not apply to tribal law enforcement.

The northern lawmakers worked closely with Burnett County Sheriff Dean Roland and St. Croix Tribal Police Chief Frank Taylor to develop the legislation, which adds tribal law enforcement to the definition of law enforcement agency in the mutual assistance statute. Prior to the attorney general's decision, Burnett County and the St. Croix Tribal Police Department assisted each other regularly sharing the use of drug-sniffing dogs, among other resources.

"As a former sheriff, I intimately understand the importance of cooperation with tribal law enforcement. I worked closely with tribal police on many occasions and the decision of the attorney general put that type of cooperation in jeopardy. Senator Jauch and I immediately set to work to allow the continuation of these beneficial arrangements," said Hraychuck.

The attorney general's opinion virtually halted aid that had benefited both tribal and non-tribal citizens for years. In 2008, prior to the opinion, there were 157 logged cases of mutual assistance. In the three months following the opinion there were only seven. This bill creates a uniform process covering costs and liability for tribal and non-tribal law enforcement agencies engaging in mutual assistance.

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"I represent five tribes in my district and they overlap several counties and various law enforcement agencies. Cooperation between the tribes and local law enforcement has always been a logical arrangement; it saves resources, reduces response time and helps foster positive community relationships," Jauch said. "This bill will restore the trust and communication that have made mutual assistance between counties and tribes successful in many areas of rural Wisconsin."

Governor Doyle is expected to sign the bill.

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