RIVERTON — Lawmakers seek to revive a 2013 proposed bill that would grant the Wind River Police Department the authority to enforce state laws and arrest non-enrolled offenders.
The Wyoming Legislative subcommittee on tribal relations discussed the bill at a meeting Oct. 14, noting that WRPD agents cannot arrest or cite offenders who are not enrolled in a Native American tribe.
The current process for arrests and citations of non-enrolled offenders on the reservation is for WRPD agents to keep the person in the area until Fremont County Sheriff's deputies or Highway Patrol agents arrive to make an arrest.
House Bill 27 would grant state law authority to the WRPD, in addition to the tribal codes and federal laws tribal police enforce currently. As a result WRPD jurisdiction would apply regardless of an offender's tribal enrollment status.
The bill says that once an arrest is made, the offender would be delivered "promptly" to the appropriate county detention facility.
When it initially was proposed, State Rep. Lloyd Larsen (R-Lander) said HB 27 was buried.
"It got tripped up, I will say, for political reasons," he said.
State Sen. Affie Ellis (R-Cheyenne) was eager to revive the bill.
"Just in full candor," she said, "I am dying to dust that sucker off."
State Sen. Cale Case (R-Lander) saw the bill through the tribal relations committee when he was chairman.
"It certainly is a logical thing to do," he said, though he remembered that "it caused a lot of angst here in Fremont County."
"I think there's some folks in the Riverton area that were really concerned about it, for really no reason," Case said.
The issues emerged when Wyoming Highway Patrol Col. Kebin Haller delivered an agency update before the committee, drawing attention to the extra training that law enforcement agents undergo to gain authorization outside their agency domains.
Haller said that all 10 of his troopers in the area underwent special training and an additional background check to become "select certified," which means they may issue citations or make arrests of tribal-enrolled offenders on the Wind River Indian Reservation.
The reverse is also possible: WRPD agents can undergo special training to gain the ability to enforce state law.
For example, Haller said, "The current chief of police at the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Tony Larvie, was the first-ever WRPD special agent assigned to a Division of Criminal Investigation task force."
The task force required Larvie to obtain the select certification that enabled him to act as a state police agent, but, Haller noted, Larvie's training was more rigorous than that of a WHP trooper seeking jurisdiction on the reservation.
"We had to send him to 14 weeks of training to go through the complete academy," Haller said. "It can be done - but it is more burdensome."
Larsen called the jurisdictional limitations a "frustration."
"We hope ... to continue to move forward and allow tribal police to be allowed to issue citations to tribal members on non-tribal land" as well, he said.
Haller felt that WRPD agents' endorsement as state law officers would be a "force multiplier," adding that state police "can't be everywhere at once."
"We have a great relationship with BIA, (and) this combines our forces," he said. "I'm very supportive of this."