The judge said he considered that information, reviewed the law that created the department and concluded “nothing in this history suggests an intent to expand the powers of the ... police department beyond the boundaries of the indigenous community it was created to protect.
“The court is led directly to the conclusion that the police authority of the St. Regis Mohawk Tribal Police is definitively limited to the County of Franklin, and further, to the St. Regis Mohawk Reservation.
“Tribal Police officers are truly New York state police officers; they are not substandard in any respect. They have all the powers, within their jurisdiction, of any other New York State police officer.
“But the instrument of their creation … limits their geographic reach, except in circumstances not present here, to the St. Regis Reservation in Franklin County,” Main wrote.
‘RIGHT TO RESPOND’
He said the police were right to respond to the crash since they were the closest law-enforcement entity, but their response “did not include the power to arrest.”
Main said the law intended to create the police force with limited powers, and based on that, “the court is constrained to dismiss the indictment.
“Whether the result is good law or bad law is not for the court to discern,” he wrote. “Whether any change in the law is called for remains within the sound discretion of the (state) legislature.”
But, he said, if Tribal Police suspect a crime is being committed, they can call in “sister agencies who could effect an arrest even upon the sworn statement of responding officers.”
And the tribal officers could, as community citizens, “cooperate with law enforcement and provide statements to their observations” and testify at a grand-jury proceeding to relay their observations to the panel, the judge said.
“In these instances, they would simply be exercising their prerogatives of citizenship and not ‘the duties or functions of a police officer,’” he wrote.
Email Denise A. Raymo:firstname.lastname@example.org