Relates to the jurisdiction of the St. Regis Mohawk tribal police and provides for the repeal of such provisions upon expiration thereof; expands the authority of the St. Regis police to include a specific area of Franklin county, outside of the state-recognized boundaries of the reservation commonly referred to as the Bombay Triangle; authorizes the superintendent of state police with the authority to certify tribal officers with additional authority to exercise police powers in this expanded area; the superintendent would also have the ability to revoke the expanded certification.
TITLE OF BILL: An act to amend the Indian law, in relation to the jurisdiction of the St. Regis Mohawk tribal police; and providing for the repeal of such provisions upon expiration thereof
Purpose of the Bill: To enhance highway safety and increase the law enforcement presence in a specific area of Franklin County.
Summary of Provisions: This bill would amend subdivision 2 of section 114 of the Indian Law to authorize the Superintendent of State Police to expand the authority of the St. Regis Police to include a specific area of Franklin County, outside of the state-recognized boundaries of the St. Regis Indian reservation to the area commonly referred to as the Bombay Triangle, so that they may lawfully stop vehicles suspected of criminal violations such as smuggling, DWI and traffic offenses.
This bill would authorize the Superintendent of State Police, who currently certifies each tribal officer with state authority on the reservation, with the authority to certify the officers with additional authority to exercise police powers in this expanded area. The Superintendent would also have the ability to revoke the expanded certification if warranted in the same manner that he or she may now revoke the original certification. As such, the State of New York would retain control of the law enforcement activity in this area.
Existing Law: Indian Law section 114 currently limits the authority of the St. Regis Mohawk tribal police to the state-recognized boundaries of the reservation, which does not include this property.
Prior Legislative History: New Bill
Statement in Support: As a result of a long standing dispute between the State of New York and members of the St Regis Tribe concerning the legitimacy of a historical conveyance of certain property in Franklin County, the State and members of the Tribe disagree on the current location of reservation boundaries. The Tribe considers the boundaries to be shaped as a roughly intact rectangle. The State's position is that the reservation lands do not include a triangle-shaped piece of land in the center of the southern half of what would otherwise be a fairly clear rectangle. This contested land in the Town of Bombay is often referred to as the Bombay Triangle or the Hogansburg Triangle.
Section 114 of the New York Indian Law granted the Superintendent of State Police the authority to certify members of the St. Regis Police Department with state-recognized police officer powers on reservation lands. Although it has been regularly patrolled by state-certified St. Regis tribal officers, courts have recently held that the grant of police authority to the St. Regis officers did not include this triangular-shaped piece of property because section 114 was specifically limited to the reservation itself and the disputed land it is not land considered by New York State to be within the boundaries of the reservation.
As a result, courts have held that several vehicle stops and subsequent arrests in this area by tribal officers to be unlawful. Defense attorneys have subsequently used these decisions to dismiss
criminal cases, including DWIs and drug related crimes that have been committed in this territory. This has a detrimental effect on public safety because a portion of a major highway, Route 37, passes directly through this section of land and is a popular route among smugglers and drug traffickers.
Under this bill, dismissals such as these would be avoided as the authority of the St. Regis tribal officers to make arrests in this area would be beyond question under both State law and tribal law. The bill would provide a stop-gap measure that would effectively solve a vulnerability problem in the public security structure in this area. Moreover, it would be accomplished in a manner that would not be interpreted as a concession by either the State or the Tribe with respect to the underlying, long-standing boundary dispute. As these provisions would sunset in 2015, they would create a temporary measure that would enhance highway safety and provide police protection to the residents of this area. The law could be extended once it proves to be beneficial to both the Tribe and the State.
The alternative to this bill is to continue to have the St. Regis police make arrests that are subject to being dismissed by the courts, or to have an increased State Police presence in this area. However, as State Troopers have not traditionally patrolled this area, a change in this practice could incite unrest as the tribal members who live in this area consider this land to be tribal property. A surge in State Police patrols in this area would be interpreted as an infringement of tribal sovereignty, thus potentially leading to an unnecessary conflict between its members and State authorities.
The tribal police department, through the operation of a New York State statute, has become a State-recognized and certified police department whose members have successfully enforced the law and prosecuted cases in New York courts. They have proven themselves as an important partner in the fight against drug smuggling and other border related crimes and offenses. In fact, there is now a close partnership between the State Police and the St Regis Tribal Police department that has resulted in mutual benefits to both agencies. The limited expansion proposed by this bill facilitates that relationship and would solve an unaddressed problem that has resulted in needless dismissals of criminal cases. As this solution is one that could be accepted by the members of the Tribe who live in the area, it would enhance the safety of the members of both police departments by reducing the tensions that would otherwise result from a perception of State intrusion into this disputed territory.
Budget Implications: Although it would not have a significant effect on the State budget it would enable the Town of Bombay to collect more fine money for traffic tickets and arrests made by the tribal police as they would no longer have to be dismissed by the court based on a claim of lack of jurisdiction.
Local Impact: This would reduce tensions between members of the St. Regis Tribe and State authorities and would provide a solution to a unique problem that would not effect the legal position of either the State or the Tribe in any land claims relating to this property. It will also further enhance the positive relationship between the New York State Police and the St. Regis Mohawk Tribal Police Department.
Effective Date: This act shall take effect immediately and shall be in effect until September 1, 2015 when upon such date the provisions of this act shall be deemed repealed.
STATE OF NEW YORK ________________________________________________________________________ 7828 IN SENATE June 12, 2014 ___________Introduced by Sen. LITTLE -- read twice and ordered printed, and when printed to be committed to the Committee on Investigations and Govern- ment Operations AN ACT to amend the Indian law, in relation to the jurisdiction of the St. Regis Mohawk tribal police; and providing for the repeal of such provisions upon expiration thereof THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, REPRESENTED IN SENATE AND ASSEM- BLY, DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS: Section 1. Subdivision 2 of section 114 of the Indian law, as added by chapter 558 of the laws of 2005, is amended and a new subdivision 8-a is added to read as follows: 2. Upon the application of the St. Regis Mohawk tribal council, the superintendent of state police may appoint any person as a police offi- cer with all powers provided for in the criminal procedure law, except for those powers specifically excepted by this section, for the preser- vation of order and of the public peace, and the arrest of all persons committing offenses upon the St. Regis Mohawk tribal reservation AND UPON ADDITIONAL LANDS AS SET FORTH IN SUBDIVISION EIGHT-A OF THIS SECTION. The total number of appointments shall be determined by the superintendent in his or her discretion. 8-A. UPON THE APPLICATION OF THE ST. REGIS MOHAWK TRIBAL COUNCIL, THE SUPERINTENDENT OF THE STATE POLICE IS AUTHORIZED TO EXPAND THE JURISDIC- TION OF ANY PERSON APPOINTED A POLICE OFFICER UNDER THIS SECTION TO THE AREA WITHIN THE COUNTY OF FRANKLIN, OUTSIDE OF THE BOUNDARY OF THE ST. REGIS RESERVATION, TO THE AREA KNOWN AS THE "BOMBAY TRIANGLE" IN SUCH MANNER THAT THE SOUTHERN BOUNDARY OF THE AREA OF EXPANDED JURISDICTION SHALL BE A STRAIGHT LINE BEGINNING AT A POINT ON THE SOUTHERN BOUNDARY IN THE SOUTHWEST QUADRANT OF THE ST. REGIS RESERVATION, FIVE HUNDRED FEET EAST OF THE ST. REGIS RIVER AT 44.9540N 74.6873W, CONTINUING IN AN EASTERLY DIRECTION TO A POINT ON THE SOUTHERN BORDER IN THE SOUTHWESTERN QUADRANT OF THE RESERVATION AT 44.9526N 74.6132W. THE AREA OF EXPANDED JURISDICTION SHALL INCLUDE ALL POINTS NORTH OF THIS LINE DESCRIBED HERE- IN CONTINUING TO THE SOUTHERN-MOST BORDER OF THE ST. REGIS RESERVATION. SUCH EXPANDED JURISDICTION MAY BE REVOKED OR SUSPENDED BY THE SUPER-EXPLANATION--Matter in ITALICS (underscored) is new; matter in brackets [ ] is old law to be omitted. LBD15575-01-4 S. 7828 2
INTENDENT AT HIS OR HER DISCRETION. OFFICERS EXERCISING POLICE AUTHORITY PURSUANT TO THIS EXPANDED JURISDICTION SHALL BE SUBJECT TO ALL OF THE PROVISIONS SET FORTH IN THIS SECTION IN THE SAME MANNER AS IF THEY WERE OPERATING WITHIN THE STATE-RECOGNIZED BORDERS OF THE ST. REGIS RESERVA- TION AND ALL RESPONSIBILITIES SET FORTH IN THIS SECTION WITH RESPECT TO THE DUTIES OF THE ST. REGIS MOHAWK TRIBE, INCLUDING THE DUTY TO INDEM- NIFY AND SAVE HARMLESS, SHALL APPLY TO THIS AREA IN THE SAME MANNER AS IF IT WAS WITHIN THE STATE-RECOGNIZED BOUNDARIES OF THE ST. REGIS RESERVATION. A REPRESENTATIVE OF THE ADMINISTRATION OF THE ST. REGIS MOHAWK TRIBAL POLICE DEPARTMENT SHALL KEEP THE SUPERINTENDENT INFORMED, ON A MONTHLY BASIS, OF ALL CRIMES, ACCIDENTS AND REQUESTS FOR LAW ENFORCEMENT SERVICES OCCURRING WITHIN THE AREA DESCRIBED IN THIS SUBDI- VISION IN WHATEVER MANNER AND FORMAT THE SUPERINTENDENT DESIGNATES. NOTHING IN THIS SECTION SHALL BE INTERPRETED IN A MANNER TO REDUCE OR ELIMINATE THE EXISTING JURISDICTION OF ANY OTHER STATE OR LOCAL POLICE DEPARTMENT WITHIN THIS AREA. S 2. This act shall take effect immediately and shall expire September 1, 2015 when upon such date the provisions of this act shall be deemed repealed.