Band members concerned about law enforcement in Hinckley and Aazhoomog have reason to celebrate, after the Mille Lacs Band and Pine County signed a law enforcement agreement on Tuesday, May 9.
Under the agreement, Mille Lacs Tribal Police of cers can enforce state criminal law on all Band-owned fee land and tribal trust land in Pine County. The new agreement replaces a previous agreement that had been in place since 2004.
The signatories included Solicitor General Todd Matha, Chief Executive Melanie Benjamin, Tribal Police Chief Sara Rice, Pine County Board Chair Matt Ludwig, County Attorney Reese Frederickson and County Sheriff Jeff Nelson. All but Nelson attended a signing ceremony at the Pine County Courthouse May 9, with Tribal Police officers and Pine County personnel present as witnesses.
At the signing, Todd said, “It’s very refreshing that the relationship between the Band and the County is what it is. Reese and I dealt collaboratively on this Joint Powers Agreement, band there are no hidden agendas that we have coming to it. We just want to provide the best law enforcement we can to all residents in the county. With an increased population, we have an increased responsibility. We have a very able, well trained police force, and we look forward to a great cooperative and collaborative relationship with Pine County.”
Melanie said, “I want to say chi-miigwech — thank you — to all the officials in Pine County. This is great progress. I had the opportunity to talk with constituents in the Hinckley area, and everyone is thrilled and happy.”
Sara said, “I think this is going to make a huge impact not only for Band members but for all of the county. We work very well with the sheriff, the jail and the county attorney.”
Commissioner Ludwig said, “People should know a lot of work and thought went in behind the scenes. I know it’s a lot of work to make these cooperative agreements work, and I want to commend everyone who made this happen.”
County Attorney Frederickson credited Todd for the agreement. “He’s always great to work with, and I learn a lot from him when we collaborate on projects like this.”
The Band is in mediation with Mille Lacs County hoping to develop a new law enforcement agreement after the County rescinded the previous agreement last summer. The agreement is pending formal approval by Band Assembly.