SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Santa Fe County’s sheriff has revoked state police powers from tribal police in Pojoaque Pueblo after a dispute with the county over liability and complaints from citizens who said they were harassed.
The decision announced Friday night by Sheriff Robert Garcia was primarily based on a dispute over who should bear financial liability for tribal officers commissioned by the county, he said. Tribal police will no longer be able to enforce state criminal laws against non-Indians within pueblo boundaries.
Garcia said he also was concerned about issues raised by non-pueblo Pojoaque Valley residents who complained they were harassed by tribal police.
Garcia said the pueblo and the county had been negotiating an agreement and he had thought it would be signed earlier in the week, but it wasn’t.
“My main concern was the liability that we were trying to negotiate with the pueblo, for pueblo officers acting under my commission,” Garcia said. “I don’t hire them, I don’t supervise them and I don’t train them, so I don’t want to be liable for them, unless I have directly asked them to arrest someone.”
Pojoaque (pronounced poh-WAH’-kay) Pueblo Gov. George Rivera told the Santa Fe New Mexican (http://bit.ly/P2nyC2 ) he wants the county to cover more but not all liability. He also says he’ll be pleased if more deputies are assigned to cover the pueblo.
“We’ve asked them to send more deputies in the past, and they’ve always said they didn’t have the money,” Rivera said. “It was cheaper for them to let us do it. If they’re going to provide the law enforcement, then they’ll have all the liability and all the cost.”
Garcia said he also was concerned about issues raised by Valley residents at a community meeting earlier in the week. Several angry residents said they don’t want Pojoaque Pueblo officers commissioned by the county. They claimed they have been harassed by tribal officers and had to go to tribal court to deal with citations instead of going to the county Magistrate Court.
Rivera and Garcia agree that the county and pueblo law enforcement agencies have worked together for more than a decade and never had this level of contention.
The county has an ongoing agreement with the Pueblo of Tesuque and Garcia commissions their officers. Under that agreement, the pueblo covers its officers’ liability.
Garcia said he’s hoping a similar agreement can be reached with Pojoaque Pueblo. He said is less expensive to have the pueblo’s help providing law enforcement in the area.
Without an agreement, if there’s a crime involving non-Indians at the tribe’s casino or anywhere else on Pojoaque Pueblo’s land, county deputies will have to respond.
“I do need them,” Garcia said. “I just cannot, the county cannot, cover their liability.”