Tribal police, sheriff will work together

Tim Hudson thudson@examiner-enterprise.com
Osage County Sheriff Eddie Virden said his office and the Osage Nation Tribal Police have agreed to work together. Mark Blumer Photography

Osage County and Osage Nation officials say they have reached an agreement regarding cross deputization of county and tribal authorities.

“We are commissioning their officers and they are commissioning our officers,” Osage County Sheriff Eddie Virden said. “The county will be policing the county and the tribe will be policing tribal land with their primary jurisdiction being tribal lands. They will aid the sheriff’s office when needed and vice-versa.”

The question of the cross-deputization had been discussed at a meeting with the sheriff’s office and tribal officials in November. At that time, the commissions were rescinded. The Osage Nation’s Police Force employs 17 and the sheriff’s office has 42 commissioned deputies.

“The citizens out there need an explanation of what has happened. Basically we were evaluating every situation from the jail, to patrol, and everything through my first year,” he said. “In 2013, a new law took care of the reason why there was a cross-commission, so we were basically looking over our commission situations.”

Virden said the Osage County cross-commissions were originally in 2006 and “it was done so that native officers could deal with non-natives on tribal land, specifically the casinos.”

“After communicating, we were able to set down and come to an agreement of terms and move to a better situation of servicing the citizens of this county,” said Osage Nation Police Chief Nick Williams.

Osage Nation Attorney General Holli Wells described tribal laws as “complex.”

“It’s very patchwork,” she said.

“The bottom line is we are bridging every gap and working for the best of the entire county — tribal land and state,” Virden said. “We will be working together on the drug task force, we are currently funding it ourselves and are covering 2,200 square miles so we are always looking for more resources. These are good people and we are working towards the same goal and whatever comes up we will use whatever resources we have. We are definitely in a better place now then we were then.”

Williams said that given the state of crime around the United States the cross-deputizations are timely and needed.

“We’re basically back to where we were pre-November and that’s good, especially given the situations around the country, like the school shootings,” he said. “And issues like opioids and of course methamphetamine.”

Virden said the process of cross-deputization was started on Friday and will be finished soon.

“We just want to make sure we are prepared,” he said.