Meskwaki law enforcement jurisdiction questions wrestled with by county, state leaders By John Speer Central Iowa Press email@example.com
“We (need to) sit down at the table and hammer through it and come up with an equitable solution beneficial to all – How the Tama County Sheriff’s Office deals with the orders to stay off the Meskwaki Settlement unless invited or permission is granted by Meskwaki Police,” State Senator Jeff Edler (R-State Center) said Monday in offering up his view on law enforcement jurisdiction on Tribal property west of Tama and Toledo and near Montour. Tama County supervisors, State Rep. Dean Fisher (R-Montour), Tama County Sheriff Dennis Kucera and Edler met for about one hour Monday morning in a session devoted primarily to the law enforcement jurisdictional issue. No immediate future meeting on the issue was announced Monday. The circumstances first arose when Meskwaki Attorney General Jay Finch sent a letter to Kucera dated Dec. 13 which said it is required Tama County sheriff’s officers are to have permission or be invited by Meskwaki Nation Tribal Police to be on Settlement property. Finch’s letter cam after President Trump signed legislation returning jurisdiction to the Sac and Fox Tribe of the Mississippi in Iowa (Meskwakis) on Dec. 11. Since then the issue arose in the court of Tama County Magistrate Richard Vander Mey who threw out a Meskwaki Police case on Jan. 1. The magistrate based his dismissal upon his interpretation of a “lack of state jurisdiction” on the Settlement as a result of the federal legislation. Concerning conduct of his officers, Kucera said, “”How are we going to proceed…in the process of a pursuit that starts (in) Tama, Toledo or the county and on to the Settlement. What is the protocol going to be? Are we to continue now we’re trespassing on Tribal ground if we don’t even have permission to proceed onto (the) Settlement?” He said he questioned the lack of payments and was told, “they don’t have to pay, they are exempt.” Kucera said he plans on send a billing to the Tribe itself rather than submitting to Meskwaki Police which has been the practice. Kucera said an FBI agent visited his office on Dec. 3 and promised to forward examples of agreements between Nebraska Tribes and local law enforcement to him. “(There are) roughly 280 Tribes which have their own law enforcement- that are sitting as Meskwakis are now- we know there are mutual aid agreements out there. The questions are are there laws similar enough at the state level to use as a template?” Edler also called for the Bureau of indian Affairs to aid any negotiations. Supervisors also continued and urged the legislators to support their call for federal government aid to make up for lost property taxes on lands purchased by the Tribe which become property tax exempt.