Opinion: Open Saginaw Chippewa crime records to the public

"I wish to address the issue of Tribal sovereignty, hopefully better than President Bush did, after reading recently that three tribal members had been indicted in federal court for serious assaultive crimes committed in the community.

Two of the indictments mentioned a firearm, and the third was for assault on a person with a baseball bat with the intent to do great bodily harm. These are serious charges and the public should have a right to know about the crimes prior the issuance of federal indictments by U.S. authorities. I would suspect that if the investigations had not involved the Tribal police that press releases would have been issued to inform the media and the public of the serious nature of the crimes.

As I read the articles on the indictments, it appears that the Morning Sun had requested information from Tribal officials on one of the cases, and as is most often the case, no information was provided. The position that has been taken by Tribal officials is that they are a sovereign nation and that police and court matters are private and not open to public review or inspection. Other local police agencies have a daily crime report that is available to the public, and they will issue press releases depending on the nature of any specific incident. Why should the Tribal Police Department be any less accountable to the public that they serve?

I have personal knowledge of attempts that were made to obtain Tribal Court records, which were unsuccessful because the release had to be authorized by the judge. These same records would have been public in any local or federal court in the state, but are secret in Tribal Court unless their release is approved by the Tribal Judge. This is the same judge that just happens to be “hired” by the Tribal Council and is dependent upon the council for continued employment. Police records unfortunately appear to fall into the same category in this “sovereign nation” and are considered private documents that are kept hidden from the all too intrusive public as well."

Get the Story:
LES ROSAN: Tribal court and police records should be open to public (The Mt. Pleasant Morning Sun 4/10)

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