All Garvin County law enforcement now cross-deputized with Chickasaw Lighthorse Police

Garvin County officials recently signed a cross-deputation agreement with Chickasaw Lighthorse Police and in doing so joined all municipalities in the county that have made similar commitments.

Lindsay Police Chief Clint Wood says though his city’s agreement was completed about a year ago, his interest in securing one started much earlier.

“We looked into it several years ago, well before the Supreme Court’s reservation ruling,” Wood said. “But once the decision came down we knew we wanted to work hand in hand with Lighthorse.”

Wood is referring to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in McGirt, decided in 2020, which held that Congress had never disestablished the Muscogee-Creek reservation for purposes of criminal jurisdiction. Subsequent rulings of the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appals likewise recognized and affirmed the reservations of the Chickasaw, Choctaw, Seminole and Cherokee nations.

On reservations, state law enforcement lack jurisdiction when a crime involves a Native person, either as perpetrator or victim, which marks a significant change from prior jurisdictional understandings.

A cross-deputation agreement, however, provides a means to extend all appropriate authorities to law enforcement agencies so they can act for the safety of all citizens, regardless of Native status or jurisdiction.

“This is tribal land and we wanted to be able to assist Lighthorse and work together with them,” Wood said. “We have tribal members who live in our area and we’re able to work those cases where originally Lighthorse would have had to come over and work them themselves. By being cross-deputized we can work the cases; we can make the arrest and we can send the paperwork to the prosecutors. That’s been a great asset.”

Wood said Lighthorse police have been a valuable resource for information.

“They give us information on laws that are changing and keeping up to date on things like that. They’ve been great to work with.”

He said Chickasaw Lighthorse Police have made themselves available to help with crowd control during parades and other events in Lindsay and Lighthorse’s tactical (SWAT) team once gave a presentation to Lindsay school students.

“The kids ate that up,” he said.

Wood said he requested Lighthorse SWAT’s assistance on a more pressing matter when serving a search warrant in the Lindsay area. “They took the lead on it because of their manpower, ability and tools they use, and they secured everything.

“We really do appreciate them. They’ve accepted us, a small town community, just like anybody else.”

Paoli Police Chief Bradley Uhles says Lighthorse’s SWAT team was instrumental in securing a search warrant in his community that netted 39 pounds of methamphetamine and saved two children from dire living conditions.

“We didn’t have the resources to execute the search warrant. I contacted (Chickasaw Lighthorse SWAT) and they came up and executed the search warrant for us,” Uhles said. “The Chickasaws have been nothing but helpful for us.”

Wynnewood officials only recently approved its cross-deputation agreement and police chief Ken Moore is still ferreting out all of its potential ramifications.

“I think for Lighthorse, it does give them a little extra manpower on the street in the smaller communities where they didn’t really have a presence,” Moore said. “When we have to deal with a Native American it gives us the ability to do so and not have our hands tied.

“Lighthorse police have been real good to work with during this time. There’s so much we can’t do with just one officer on duty. We still have to call for a Lighthorse officer to come and pretty much take over,” Moore said.

For Paul Bush, Maysville’s police chief, agreeing to cross-deputize was a simple matter of common sense.

“This is basically Native land and it kind of un-handcuffs us dealing with the Native victims and suspects as well,” Bush said. “It’s just easier to deal with. It gives us the book to take care of the call and then send it to the court clerk in Ada or to the prosecutor’s office in Ada. I think it helps both agencies. It was a natural thing to do, just common sense to sign an agreement.”

Bush said the fact his officers can legally address whatever situation arises still comes as a surprise to some.

“We’ve got people who say, ‘Well, I’m Native; you can’t do anything to me.’ And I say, ‘I’m glad you are Native – we’re cross-deputized now, so let’s get this figured out.’ We’re talking to people and explaining it to them – this is how it works now.”

Pauls Valley has had an agreement in place for many years, which Police Chief Mitch McGill says made for a smooth transition following the Supreme Court’s decision.

“When the decision came down nothing changed for us because we’ve had a cross-deputation agreement for ten years,” McGill said.

“I think our agreement benefits Lighthorse more now than before because if we get a call and it involves Native Americans it is now in their hands to get that case prosecuted. They don’t have somebody here in Pauls Valley 24/7 like we do. Also, it benefits us that we can be able to protect people in a timely manner without having to call and wait on them to come here. It benefits everybody in the long run. We have a very good relationship.”

Elmore City Police Chief Johnny Denney says his reason for cross-deputizing was a realization that it was the only way to protect all members of his community.

“If something happens, whether victim or suspect, being cross-commissioned, I’m able to deal with it without any repercussions and not doing anything and having to wait for Lighthorse to get here,” Denney said.

He said one example of cooperation involved his force along with Oklahoma Highway Patrol, Lighthorse SWAT and Chickasaw K-9 teams, in arresting robbery suspects who had crashed their car and run into a wooded area.

“I know a bunch of people who work with Lighthorse. They seem like a good group of guys,” he said.

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