Wednesday, 17 April 2024

District Attorney's Office approves law enforcement agreement with Robinson Rancheria

From left, Robinson Rancheria Chief of Police David Mendoza, Tribal Chairperson Tracey Avila and District Attorney Jon Hopkins. Courtesy photo.

ROBINSON RANCHERIA, Calif. – An agreement to allow Robinson Rancheria's federally commissioned law enforcement officers to direct file cases with the Lake County District Attorney's Office has been finalized.

On Aug. 12, District Attorney Jon Hopkins approved an intergovernmental agreement between the Lake County District Attorney’s Office and the Robinson Rancheria Band of Pomo Indians that Robinson Rancheria Police Chief Dave Mendoza said was nearly a year in the making.

The agreement will allow the District Attorney's Office to prosecute suspects based on the investigations submitted and testimony of the Robinson Rancheria’s federally commissioned law enforcement officers, Mendoza said.

“This is a very significant step forward for law enforcement, not only on the Robinson Rancheria, but throughout Lake County,” said Mendoza.

It's the first agreement of its kind in Lake County, he said.

“As a result of this agreement, those who are arrested by federally commissioned police officers for breaking the law on the reservation will be prosecuted the same way as any other offender in Lake County and the victims of those crimes will be provided the same representation,” Mendoza added.

Mendoza told Lake County News in an interview earlier this month that Robinson Rancheria's officers were issued special law enforcement commissions by the secretary of the Department of the Interior in April 2009, one of only eight such agencies in California.

That makes them federal law enforcement officials who Mendoza said retain their federal status both on and off of the reservation. They can therefore enforce federal law and, in some cases, state law.

Mendoza said the agreement will allow Robinson Rancheria's federally commissioned police officers to submit their investigations directly with the District Attorney’s Office, which will handle the police reports in the same manner as reports filed by the other law enforcement agencies in Lake County.

If the District Attorney decides to prosecute the suspect, the Robinson Rancheria’s federal law enforcement officers will be available to testify in the cases, Mendoza said.

Hopkins said the agreement was the “next logical step” in the work he's been doing with Lake County tribal communities since being elected district attorney in 2006.

“It is important to have tribal members trust the resources outside their community and to work together to make sure all victims of crime are protected and benefit from a stronger public safety effort,” he said. “All law enforcement should be able to be focused on keeping people and property safe.”

By agreeing to prosecute meritorious cases filed by the Robinson’s federal police officers for crimes committed on the Robinson Rancheria, Hopkins said, “We have effectively expanded the number of police officers protecting the people of Lake County. That’s good for everyone.”

Mendoza said the new arrangement with the Lake County District Attorney’s Office falls right in line with the recent agreement made with the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, where Federal Magistrate Nandor J. Vadas holds federal court on the Hopland Reservation for the five federal agencies who work in Lake and Mendocino County.

That arrangement was accomplished by working mutually with Hopland Chief of Police Brett Rhodes and is supported by the United States Attorney’s Office and the United States Marshal’s Office, according to Mendoza.

Hopland Rancheria's officers also are federally commissioned, according to Rhodes, whose agency holds a similar direct filing agreement with the Mendocino County District Attorney's Office.

Mendoza complimented Hopkins for working with the Robinson Rancheria on its law enforcement program.

“We have had the full support of Mr. Hopkins and his staff from day one and his input and direction has played a vital role in the success and development of the Robinson Rancheria’s Police Department,” said Mendoza, adding that Hopkins' work was “foreword thinking and timely.”

Mendoza said the agreement forecasts the future goals and policies being set by the federal government with the passage last month of the Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010.

In the current difficult economic times it is important to build upon the community's resources in order to continue to provide quality public safety services to the citizens of Lake County,” he said.

Hopkins' approval of the agreement has added another valuable law enforcement agency to the community, said Chief Mendoza.

With Robinson's federal law enforcement officers now able to conduct their investigations, arrest criminals and submit their cases directly to the prosecuting agency of the county, “That makes people on and off the reservation more secure,” Mendoza said.

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