County/reservation law enforcement agreement one step closer
Officials are hopeful that law enforcement efforts on the Navajo reservation in San Juan County will significantly improve with the implementation of a cooperative agreement between San Juan County and the Navajo Nation.
The border areas in southern San Juan County have been the scene of many law enforcement challenges in the past as county, state, federal and tribal boundaries combined to create a jurisdictional nightmare.
The proposed cross commission agreement will allow San Juan County Sheriff deputies and Navajo Nation police to work together as never before, said San Juan County Sheriff Rick Eldredge.
“I always thought that something like this was possible,” said Eldredge, who ran for office, in part, with the goal of addressing this issue.
“Everything has come together,” said Eldredge, “Everyone realizes that we need to get together and fix this.”
Over the course of many months, the proposal has worked its way through a myriad of agencies in the Navajo Nation. It has earned the approval of Navajo Nation President Ben Shelley.
A host of county, state, federal and Navajo Nation officials met in Monument Valley on February 25 to seek the final approval needed to implement the agreement.
The Law and Order Committee of the Navajo Nation Council is the final group needed to approve the cross commission agreement.
It is anticipated that the formal document will be approved by the Navajo Nation Council in March and signed soon afterwards.
Eldredge reports that some of the biggest problems related to law enforcement in the area are due to slow response time by Navajo police, which he said is severely under-staffed and spread thin.
On-going law enforcement efforts will continue to be handled by the Navajo Police Department on the reservation. However, the new agreement will allow San Juan County officers to respond to emergency situations in the county.
“We can respond to armed robberies, drunk drivers, anything that needs immediate attention,” said Eldredge.
Wording in the agreement simply states that each agency will function as the “primary law enforcement” in its own jurisdiction and will act as “secondary law enforcement” when enforcing laws of the other agency in that agency’s jurisdiction.
There is no funding tied to the agreement and no new officers will be hired. However, Eldredge said that he hopes the Utah Navajo Trust Fund money can eventually set aside funds for law enforcement efforts and station Navajo deputies on the reservation.
“This is great for all citizens of San Juan County, on and off the reservation,” said Eldredge. “Crime knows no boundaries.”