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House Bill gives State Police power to Poarch Creek Indians

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Thursday, March 9, 2017, the Alabama House of Representatives voted to give the Poarch Creek Indian Tribal Police State Police powers, equivalent to those exercised by local Police departments and Sheriff’s departments across the country. HB294 is sponsored by State Connie Rowe (R-Jasper).

Rep. Rowe said that this bill gives the Poarch Creek Law Enforcement Agency State Police powers. They currently have 48 Alabama Peace Officers’ Standards and Training Commission (APOSTC) Certified Peace Officers.

State Representative John Knight (D-Montgomery) said, “This is a sovereign nation, so they have certain authority granted to them already?”

Rep. Rowe said, “They currently can arrest Tribe members on their own lands but can not arrest non-Tribe members. However, they already have that ability as reserve officers with the Escambia County Sheriff’s Department. They have the same training as anybody in the State.”

State Representative Artis “A.J.” McCampbell (D-Livingston) said, “Give me a scenario. What happens if a Tribe member and a non-tribe member get in an altercation. What happens?”

Rep. Rowe said, “If both were arrested, Tribal members are subject to Tribal law and would go to the Tribe’s court system. Non-tribal members would go the regular court system….This would be the second Indian Tribe in Alabama to get State Police powers.

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According to the Tribe’s website, the Tribal Police Department of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians operates under the Special Law Enforcement Commission of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). The Tribe has Law Enforcement agreements with Escambia County Alabama Sheriff’s Department, the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department and the City of Wetumpka Police Department due to the locations of properties owned and operated by the Tribe in those jurisdictions. The Tribal Police Department also actively participates in the 21st Judicial Circuit Drug Task Force and the Elmore County Drug Task Force.

The US Bureau of Indians Affairs allows the Tribe to own and operate electronic gambling casinos in Alabama.

HB294 passed the Alabama House of Representatives 96 to 1.

The bill now goes to the Senate for its consideration. The Senate has referred this bill to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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