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Oglala Sioux Tribe and Pennington County Sheriff sign mutual support agreement

Thom, Killer, Young
Oglala Sioux Tribe President Kevin Killer signs the memorandum of mutual support, flanked by Pennington County Sheriff Kevin Thom (Left) and tribe chief of police Algin Young (Right)

There is a first-of-its-kind agreement between the Pennington County Sheriff’s Office and the Oglala Sioux Tribe Department of Public Safety.

The memorandum of mutual support is described as “historic” and a “force multiplier” for both agencies, as violent crime rates continue to rise.

Oglala Sioux Tribe President Kevin Killer said the agreement will tighten jurisdictional gaps.

“It’s going to mean people can feel safe at night and they can understand when the chief reaches out for partners he doesn’t have to worry about going through all these jurisdictional loopholes to get some arrest warrant once they flee the reservation," he said. "Because they know – they know once they leave the reservation it’s a different jurisdiction, and it’s a different relationship.”

Killer said the reservation’s public safety budget is $5 million a year, while Pennington County has a budget approaching $45 million, not including Rapid City.

Algin Young, chief of police for the tribe, said the agreement formalizes a long-term working relationship with the sheriff’s office.

“We’ve seen an increase in violent crime and we’ve seen a shortage in police officers – people wanting to be police officers. This is a force multiplier and us collaborating with the Sheriff’s office for public safety.”

Pennington County Sheriff Kevin Thom said the agreement also respects tribal sovereignty.

“This agreement is an acknowledgement of the tribe’s sovereignty," he said. "It’s government to government, signing agreements. We’ll come when asked, we’ll do what you ask, we’ll leave when asked, it’s really that simple, but it gives us the ability to better protect our communities.”

The agreement acknowledges cultural differences between the communities and commits to develop an understanding between agencies to better serve the public.

The complete mutual support agreement can be read below.

C.J. Keene is a Rapid City-based journalist covering education, healthcare, arts and culture.