Tribal and county law officials present plan for better cooperation
Pennington County and Oglala Sioux Tribal law enforcement leaders presented ideas for better cooperation at a public forum Thursday evening in Kyle.
The leaders are hoping to craft – and sign – an agreement that will make it harder for violent offenders to escape justice by fleeing to another jurisdiction.
Law enforcement leaders including Oglala Sioux Tribal Councilmember Stanley Little White Man, Rapid City Police Chief Karl Jegeris, Pennington County Sheriff Kevin Thom and Pennington County States Attorney Mark Vargo met with some deep–seated misgivings about about state authorities at Thursday’s meeting at the Oglala Lakota College.
Dave Swallow from Porcupine said that the tribe’s 1851 treaty with the U.S. government precludes any county presence on the reservation.
“I would tell you that the Pennington County and Jackson County and Bennett County -- all these -- are illegal counties within our treaty territories,” he said.
But law enforcement leaders hope to convince tribal members that cooperation is a key to improving public safety and the draft agreement in no way impinges on tribal sovereignty.
“I think we’ll get the vast majority of the residents of this reservation to understand the true contents of this (draft) agreement,” said Little White Man.
Rapid City Police Chief Karl Jegeris said nothing can happen overnight.
“We need to continue to have the difficult discussions,” he said following the public forum. “It's going to require a lot of patience and persistence in order to secure an agreement so that we can keep our community safe.”
The day had a note of irony.
On the way to Kyle, Pennington County Sheriff Kevin Thom joined a 100-mile-per-hour chase of a wanted felon who was apparently attempting to flee to the reservation in a stolen vehicle.
Parole absconder Artie Blackbear allegedly stole a car in Rapid City and took off toward Pine Ridge on Highway 44. He was pursued by a state Highway Patrol officer when he sped past Sheriff Thom on his way to Kyle.
Blackbear eluded the Highway Patrol and the sheriff and made it across the border where he was arrested by tribal police.
“I think it's a poster child for what we're trying to do here,” said Thom pointing out that Blackbear apparently wanted to get to Pine Ridge so he won’t have to face the Pennington County parole violation charges against him that stem from a 2017 aggravated assault.
The law enforcement leaders hope to hold another community meeting on the Pine Ridge Reservation in the coming weeks.