New policing agreement reached for Mille Lacs reservation

Published 9:20 pm Wednesday, September 19, 2018

MILACA — Mille Lacs County and the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe have reached an agreement for policing the tribe’s reservation in east-central Minnesota.

The agreement that took effect Tuesday resolves a dispute that came to a head two years ago when the county terminated its law enforcement agreement with the band, ending 25 years of cooperation between the tribal police department and the county sheriff’s office.

Band leaders blamed the impasse for an increase in crime and opioid abuse, saying it left tribal police with insufficient authority to investigate crimes on its reservation.

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“The past two years have been tragic and difficult years on the Mille Lacs Reservation,” Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe chief executive Melanie Benjamin said in a statement.

County Attorney Joe Walsh said the new mutual aid agreement is very similar to the old power-sharing agreement, but spells out more clearly the roles of each agency.

Among other things, the agreement grants tribal police officers authority to work alongside county deputies in three townships on the south end of Lake Mille Lacs that include the main reservation and will increase the overall law enforcement presence in the area.

However, the deal doesn’t resolve a larger disagreement between the county and the band over reservation boundaries that was at the heart of the dispute over police powers.

The band believes its reservation consists of 61,000 acres set aside in an 1855 treaty with the federal government. The county contends the reservation is limited to about 4,000 acres.