The Oglala Sioux Tribe Dept of Public Safety and the Pennington County Sheriff’s Office have signed a “Memorandum of Mutual Support” to join forces in tackling the growing crime rate in the region.
Both sides emphasize that it’s not a cross-deputization agreement, but rather a framework to guide cooperation in order to help maintain a lower crime rate and support each other with mutual aid.
Pennington County Sheriff Kevin Thom says it gives both agencies the ability to help each other a little more seamlessly and more effectively.
OST Police Chief Algin Young agrees and calls the Memorandum a “force multiplier” with an official working relationship that means his department “don’t have to jump through hoops” to get help when responding to an incident after hours.”
Young and Thom say the easier cooperation will help keep the Pine Ridge Reservation from being a safe haven for those who commit crimes elsewhere while making it easier to track those who commit crimes on the reservation, then flee.
Oglala Sioux Tribe President Kevin Killer says there’s been a spike in crime on the reservation with “a lot of gun violence related to drug violence” that stretches tribal law enforcement thin.
Chief Young has only 33 officers and a roughly $5-million dollar budget to enforce the law in an area of 3-million acres.
Past efforts to increase cooperation with law enforcement agencies in both South Dakota and Nebraska have failed, in large part over worries that they would weak tribal sovereignty.
Killer says that’s not the case this time because the Memorandum was drafted in a way that keeps tribal sovereignty as a priority with OST authorities retaining the right to tell Sheriff Thom and his deputies not to come onto the reservation.