FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 9, 2011
Austin — Today, state Senator Robert Nichols (R—Jacksonville) and Rep. John Otto (R—Dayton) filed legislation to allow the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe in Tyler and Polk Counties to establish their own law enforcement agency.
"Granting authority for the Alabama-Coushatta to police their own territory is something I am doing at the request of the tribe with the support of county officials," said Nichols. "By creating a law enforcement agency, the Alabama-Coushatta can maintain the safety of tribe members and visitors to the reservation."
Otto stressed the importance of this legislation to the tribe.
"I am pleased to support this effort as it has been a priority of the tribal council to have law enforcement on the reservation that is recognized by the state," said Otto.
Carlos Bullock, chairman of the tribal council, explained the need for creating a tribal police agency.
"Reservation lands are away from major population areas, and it is difficult for county law enforcement to be everywhere at once. By allowing us to establish our own police agency, we can monitor tribal land and work with local officials for the benefit of tribal members who live on the reservation and visitors of the community," Bullock said.
Senate Bill 1378 and House Bill 2768 grant the tribal agency enforcement powers of state law on Alabama-Coushatta lands in Polk and Tyler counties. Members of the tribal agency would undergo the same training, certification and continuing education standards as other law enforcement in the state.
Rep. James White (R—Hillister), who represents Tyler County, is a joint-author of the House Bill.
"I am proud to work with my legislative colleagues to meet the needs of the Alabama-Coushatta tribe," said White. "I believe this is a bill that will allow improved safety for everyone."
The bill only gives enforcement powers, not prosecution authority to the tribe. The tribe would still depend on traditional law enforcement for prosecution.
"The tribe currently enjoys favorable relationships with the Sheriffs of Polk and Tyler Counties, and we feel the establishment of a tribal enforcement agency will only enhance those relationships and promote cooperation," Bullock said.
The commissioners courts in Polk and Tyler Counties have both passed resolutions of support for this legislation. Additionally, the United States Department of the Interior has endorsed the efforts of the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas to create its own police department.