Editorial: It’s time to act

OMAHA WORLD-HERALD

Tribal leaders should follow up on cooperative policing effort for Whiteclay.

The time as come to stop this charade.

Either the Oglala Sioux Tribe wants to make a positive difference in the alleged illegal sales of alcohol in Whiteclay, Neb., or it does not. Nearly two years have passed since a deal was brokered between Attorney General Jon Burning and the then-president of the Oglala Sioux, who hailed the cross-deputization agreement as an “important step forward” for law enforcement in Whiteclay.

Gov, Dave Heineman signed the state on, and the Nebraska State Patrol and Attorney General’s Office began working with tribal police officers to see which of their members wanted to apply for being deputized as officers in both Nebraska and the Pine Ridge reservation.

Unfortunately for those whose suffering because of alcoholism has been the focus of efforts by numerous activist organizations, no tribal officers have successfully pursued deputization in Nebraska. None has even formally applied.

The catch no one has been willing to admit: The test for deputization of officers in Nebraska is more stringent than on the reservation, requiring clean criminal records and legal proficiencies expected of professional law enforcement officers in Nebraska.

It is improper to assume that none on the tribal police force could qualify for deputization, because Bruning would not have negotiated the pact under such circumstances, nor would then-U.S. Rep. Tom Osborne have secured federal funds for the process. Yet it is disappointing to learn that those who might qualify have avoided applying.

Instead of showing the proactive approach of assisting in the enforcement efforts against lawbreakers affecting their community, the era of political blame continues.

Mark Vasina of Nebraskans for Peace is right when he describes the enforcement agreement as historic. But he also appears correct in asserting that nothing has changed. The tribal police force should put forward representatives worthy of this noble cause. Many critics could be proven wrong.

Until then, the sadness continues.

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