The New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) revealed to FingerLakes1.com that the Cayuga Nation Police Department does not have any cross deputation agreements in either Seneca or Cayuga counties.
A joint agreement must be made between a sovereign Nation police department and a county’s sheriff office to deputize any officers. That agreement must be sent to DCJS before Nation officers, who are then listed as employees of the respective sheriff’s office, appear on the Police and Peace Officer Registry.
In the case of the Cayuga Nation, the agency “has not received any such agreement pertaining to deputizing Cayuga Nation officers,” according to Janine Kava, director of public information at DCJS.
This revelation prompts questions relating to the legality behind the presence of Pathfinder Solutions employees, who were brought into Seneca County during an overnight raid and brawl, but never added to the state’s registry.
Almost a year after those incidents, Charles Bowman, a Fayette resident, who had been later charged with two misdemeanor crimes, filed a civil lawsuit in Seneca County against the Indiana-based private security company after sustaining several physical injuries during his detainment.
Spencer Walker, a former U.S. Marine squad leader stationed in Afghanistan and self-proclaimed “sworn police officer” of the Cayuga Nation Police Department, had been hired to join their raid task force, which carried out the demolition of 12 Nation-owned properties. He, and many unnamed others like him, were never listed on the state’s registry.
In a joint amicus brief filed before the U.S. Supreme Court by the Cayuga Nation, Cherokee Nation, Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, Tunica-Biloxi Tribe of Louisiana and California Tribal Police Chiefs Association, on behalf of the United States v. Cooley case, explained how the Cayuga leadership under Clint Halftown “operates a police force, consisting of more than 20 highly trained officers that provides law enforcement services within the Nation’s reservation.”
Each of whom collected an average of 20 years of law enforcement experience within their respective state police departments and subdivisions and have earned certifications by DCJS to serve as a law enforcement officer in the state of New York.
Unlike the Cayugas, the neighboring Oneida Nation has deputation agreements with the sheriffs in Madison and Oneida counties. Their officers are reported to DCJS as employees of their respective sheriff’s offices, according to Kava.
The St. Regis-Mohawk Nation is permitted to employ police officers, granting permission to the New York State Police to oversee the process. Like the Oneida Nation Police Department, officers from their tribal police are also reported to DCJS, but listed as members of the state’s police.
While the Seneca Nation currently does not possess any agreements on file with DCJS, the Nation once had officers jointly deputized through the Cattaraugus County Sheriff’s Department in the 1900s before establishing the Seneca Nation Marshals office.
Although there isn’t any agreement established in the eyes of the state, Kava suggests that since their police department is authorized to employ officers in accordance with the Bureau of Indian Affairs and U.S. Department of Interior, the Cayuga Nation “not subject to these requirements because they are a police department under federal, not state law.”
Such requirements include any of the state’s police training mandates like the basic training of officers within one year of hiring. Kava also added how New York lacks “any statutory oversight” over the Nation’s police department, insisting all other inquiries should be directed to the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
But the federal government has repeatedly told FingerLakes1.com how the Nation’s police force is not subject to their agencies — even though a June 2019 letter suggests otherwise.
Darryl LaCounte, director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, wrote to Seneca Fall Police Chief Stuart Peenstra how the Cayuga Nation “may enforce its own criminal laws against Indians within the boundaries of the Reservation.”
Yet the Nation does not possess any Public Law 93-638 contracts with the BIA’s Eastern Regional Office. In the absence of a contract, which is considered to be the most common administrative agreement in Indian Country, the Cayuga Nation Police Department is not actively overseen by the agency’s Office of Justice Services.
A public law contract assists a department in creating an organizational structure, recommending performance standards and even provides federal funding for basic law enforcement services, but not for the Cayuga Nation.
Seneca County officials including Tim Luce, the county’s sheriff, and Dave Ettman, county attorney, were made aware of the latest development by FingerLakes1.com and declined to comment at this time.
Ettman did mention, however, how Seneca County has never sought to enter any sort of cross deputation agreement with the Nation’s police department since its founding in August 2018.
That same year, a resolution affirmed how the Seneca County Board of Supervisors “denies the authority of employees of Cayuga Indian Nation to engage in law enforcement activities” and issues a warning to residents and visitors alike how the Nation police are “not authorized to stop, question, arrest or detain any person as police officers.”
The Cayuga County Legislature also passed a similar resolution in 2019, stating how the county “does not recognize any authority upon which the Cayuga Nation Police may exercise police powers or maintain law enforcement” and “opposes any claims which base the exercise of sovereignty founded upon the establishment or operation of a police force.”
A Freedom of Information Law request filed on Sept. 7 by FingerLakes1.com to inspect and review the state certifications of 16 active and former Cayuga Nation police officers has been delayed, but is still being processed.
At the federal level, FingerLakes1.com has filed another Freedom of Information Act request to acquire any deputation agreements between the BIA’s Office of Justice Services and Cayuga Nation Police Department as well as any training certifications and accreditations through the Special Law Enforcement Commission.