Inyo Sheriff: ‘This is not a sovereignty issue’

By Deb Murphy

Press releases issued by the Bishop Paiute Tribe and the Inyo County District Attorney’s office regarding the arrest of a tribal law enforcement officer may have raised more questions than they answered.

Inyo Sheriff Bill Lutze

Inyo Sheriff Bill Lutze

Daniel Johnson was arrested in early January for what appeared to be doing his job detaining a person for violation of tribal and state court orders to “have no contact with a tribal member.” But, like life, nothing’s ever that simple.

The facts of the case, according to Sheriff Bill Lutze are: Johnson responded to a call on Dec. 24 and requested assistance from the Sheriff’s Department. When county officers arrived at the scene, Johnson had, allegedly, used a stun gun on the individual, removed her from a vehicle and put her in his squad car. The subject filed a complaint with the Sheriff’s Department; following an investigation, the case was reviewed by the DA and three felony and one misdemeanor charges were filed.

“Tribal enforcement officers only have the authority to enforce tribal ordinances,” Lutze said in a telephone interview Wednesday. “This is not a sovereignty issue. We’re working our issues out.”

According to District Attorney Tom Hardy, the fact that Johnson was enforcing a tribal order was “generally not relevant. The amount and type of force in taking action is relevant.”

Hardy went on to say that “tribal orders are civil in nature” and violators can only be issued citations for failure to comply. Hardy emphasized that Johnson was presumed innocent until proven otherwise.

Public Law 280, passed by Congress and in effect since 1952, gives six states’, including California, law enforcement agencies the jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute cases arising from actions within reservation boundaries.

The Bishop Paiute Tribe’s press release expressed its continued support of Johnson. Calls to Tribal administrators were referred to the Tribal chairman. His comments will be reported by Sierra Wave Media.

 

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Low-Inyo
Low-Inyo
7 years ago

Just maybe this all has more to it than just where it took place and who did it.Just because someone is a Law Enforcement officer doesn’t mean it’s all O.K. and legal to use a stun-gun on a person…..which seems did happen here…and possibly use excessive force to pull someone… Read more »

Eastern Sierra local
Eastern Sierra local
7 years ago

Looks like the paleface don’t like the redskins. I thought we were over all this stuff. It’s the 21st. Century for god sake. Inyo county get over it. A legitimate officer getting charge with misrepresentation of a public officer. Do you really think that the tribal officer said he was… Read more »

BIG Rick O'Brien
BIG Rick O'Brien
7 years ago

To anyone who thinks that tribal cops aren’t REAL cops, try driving over 50 MPH on Highway 95 between Hawthorne and Fallon, Nevada . They have REAL radar units, they have REAL patrol cars that say POLICE on them, they wear REAL guns and badges, and they write REAL tickets… Read more »

Trouble
Trouble
7 years ago

I for one, think we have way to many police, sheriffs, CHP, game wardens and badges running around Bishop. Anybody ever count how many we have stationed within a couple hundred yards of each other. Can we count the Tribal Police as real peace officers? Did someone really say we… Read more »

Charles O. Jones
Charles O. Jones
7 years ago
Reply to  Trouble

You think there’s too many? Well that’s no surprise coming from the guy who has expressed a general disdain for following the rules and a desire to pester his neighbors, etc. If ever you wonder why there is a presence of law enforcement – just look in the mirror. There… Read more »

Trouble
Trouble
7 years ago

Oh Charles, a police state is not a good place to raise kids. I have no police record (minus minor traffic tickets) and can’t stand either of our given parties. I’m not a saint, but I’m not uncivilized. I raised my family, paid my taxes and stayed out of jail.… Read more »

Charles O. Jones
Charles O. Jones
7 years ago
Reply to  Trouble

Anyone who claims we live in a police state has no concept of the true meaning of that phrase. Your flippant use of this term is an insult to all those who have suffered in true police states – either past or present. You just don’t know how good you’ve… Read more »

sugarmagnolia
sugarmagnolia
7 years ago

depends on your perspective Charlie O. Compared to a third world country run by a dictator, we don’t have a police state. Compared to the ideas espoused by our founding fathers and the history of our country, we are perilously close to a police state or in one!

Charles O. Jones
Charles O. Jones
7 years ago

@Sugar Police State: “A state in which the government exercises rigid and repressive controls over the social, economic, and political life of the people, especially by means of a secret police force.” With all due respect – this isn’t even close to the world I live in. I enjoy social,… Read more »

Buck Turgidson
Buck Turgidson
7 years ago

It looks to me like some Sheriff employees made a mistake and now the DA and the Sheriff are compounding the mistake by insisting it wasn’t. Bottom line, tribal police are not different from Bishop PD in terms of liablility, training and jurisdiction and there’s no reason the County should… Read more »

Desert Tortoise
Desert Tortoise
7 years ago
Reply to  Buck Turgidson

Maybe not the same jurisdiction as a state chartered LEO. Their jurisdiction is their tribe and they are restricted to enforcing tribal and Federal laws on their reservation. State and local police enforce state and local laws but they have to be careful as they don’t have jurisdiction usually over… Read more »

Buck Turgidson
Buck Turgidson
7 years ago

That is incorrect Dessert Tortoise. Now have another cream puff.

Charles O. Jones
Charles O. Jones
7 years ago

It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the real court system. Meanwhile, I’ll ignore all the legal interpretations from the arm-chair lawyers on the internet.

Bone
Bone
7 years ago

Why do you think the res cops have to call the sheriff when the call is more than a barking dog? It is because they are not really cops. Not that the officer has not taken required training, but the res does not have all that is required to be… Read more »

Miles
Miles
7 years ago
Reply to  Bone

Bone you are a complete moron; Tribal police are REAL police. The only reason they have to call the ICSO when something happens is because California is a PL 280 state. It is obvious that you work for the good ole boys club (ICSO) as your racism is shining through… Read more »

Miles
Miles
7 years ago
Reply to  Bone

Bone I personally find your comments to be highly insulting and racist. For you to insinuate that that all natives are nothing more than drunken violent murderers is sickening!

Desert Tortoise
Desert Tortoise
7 years ago
Reply to  Bone

Tribal police have to graduate a Federal law enforcement academy and are supervised by the BLM. Tribes can either have BLM LEOs patrol the reservation or create their own police force under the authority and supervision of the BLM. This particular officer is also a POST graduate. He is a… Read more »

John
John
7 years ago

I don’t think you mean the Bureau of Land Management supervises them, you mean the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The BIA has its own police force on some reservations where the tribe has not and does not want to establish their own PD. Both the BIA and BLM are Department… Read more »

John
John
7 years ago

BIA employees train at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) located in Artesia, New Mexico. The title of their basic training is something like: “Federal and Tribal Law Enforcement programs in Indian Country. BLM Rangers, Park Rangers, Forest Service Law Enforcement Officers and Refuge Officers of the U.S. Fish… Read more »

JaneE
JaneE
7 years ago

Apparently the law is designed to make sure than non-natives are never charged with crimes on tribal lands, and the Native American victims have no recourse, even on their own lands. Even trying to enforce a restraining order issued by a state court is apparently forbidden to Native Americans. So… Read more »

Desert Tortoise
Desert Tortoise
7 years ago

Methinks the Sheriff and DA have bitten off more than they can chew. This thing has the potential to metastasize if other tribes decide to assist Bishop Paiute Tribe and challenge the authority of non tribal LEOs to enforce state laws on tribal lands where one would think tribal and… Read more »

MK
MK
7 years ago

Truth,
As you probably guessed I am not a Native American , You have my support though.
Something really is wrong here and I think it is the Inyo DA.

Does the Sheriff really disregard the Tribal police as being official police other than some Mall Rent a cop!

The Aggressive Progressive
The Aggressive Progressive
7 years ago

I don’t think it is my lack of knowledge that encourages the feeling of how this makes no sense… No Sheriff Your wrong! it is a Sovereignty issue, when have tribes ever been fully granted sovereignty and self determination? and this case when a tribal officer is acting within reasonable… Read more »

The Aggressive Progressive
The Aggressive Progressive
7 years ago

I’m just tryin to point out that when tribes do utilize “tribal sovereignty”, it is shut down and disrespected with many many roadblocks that cripple the definition, happens throughout the nation… not just here in inyo county… Considering the Bishop Paiute Tribe backs Officer Johnson, this looks bad on the… Read more »

TRUTH
TRUTH
7 years ago

THIS IS A SOVEREIGNTY ISSUE WHEN THE SHERIFF AND UNDER SHERIFF TELL THE TRIBE THEY DO NOT HAVE THE RIGHT TO HAVE A POLICE DEPARTMENT OR ARM THEIR OFFICERS.

TIME HAS COME FOR ALL NATIVES IN INYO COUNTY TO “GET UP, STAND UP!! STAND FOR YOUR RIGHTS!!!”

MK
MK
7 years ago

Sounds like a bunch of conflicting laws and not rising to felony charges on a Veteran Tribal police officer. We are to believe that the violator of the restraining order was doing nothing at all. I always thought that a violation of a restraining order could get you in the… Read more »

Legal Eagle
Legal Eagle
7 years ago
Reply to  MK

This is not the first time that the Sheriff and the DA have been at odds with the Tribe. The last time the case went to the US Supreme Court.

Here is the ruling:

http://www.law.cornell.edu/supremecourt/text/02-281