County limiting who can be taken to jail

by Todd Brooks

Stephens County commissioners voted to end the contracts with local cities, including Comanche, for housing Native American offenders at its meeting Monday.

The decision stems from the McGirth vs. Oklahoma ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this year which states Native Americans who allegedly commit crimes on tribal land must be tried in Native American courts.

Most of the land in Stephens County is Chickasaw, including the entire city of Comanche.

“I hate to do it, but I have no choice because of liability issues,” Wayne McKinney, Stephens County Sheriff, said at the meeting.

Some prisoners who were incarcerated at the county jail have already been released because of the ruling.

The contract with the cities will be terminated in 30 days and new ones will be rewritten by the district attorney’s office to exclude the housing of Native Americans.

Comanche city manager Chuck Ralls and city police chief Bill Straily were both in the meeting to learn about the decision.

Straily would later say how the decision would impact his department, using an example of someone who commits first-degree burglary, which is a felony.
“If we catch the suspect and he has an Indian card, we will have to bring him back here (to the police station) and call Lighthorse and wait for them to come pick him up,” Straily said.

Lighthorse Police Department, headquartered in Ada, is the law enforcement arm of the Chickasaw Nation.

Comanche police officers have already had at least one experience of being turned away.

Last Saturday, a Comanche officer arrested a suspect with local warrants at a residence in Comanche. When the officer arrived at the county jail with the suspect, he was told the jail was not taking anyone with Indian cards.

The officer called assistant police chief Mike Moore and after confirming the suspect’s status with the tribe, the officer was instructed to release the suspect in the parking lot.

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