Bishop Paiute Tribe defends officer facing charges in county

Officer Daniel Johnson. Photo from Bishop Paiute Tribe Newsletter

A police officer for the Bishop Paiute Tribe is facing charges in Inyo County, California, for doing his job.

On December 24, 2014, Daniel Johnson responded to a call from a tribal member who was seeking protection from a non-Indian individual who is said to be the subject of a protection orders in tribal and state court. He's now accused of assault with a stun gun, false imprisonment, falsely representing himself to be a public officer and battery.

"Officer Johnson was acting under tribal authority and was carrying out his duties as a Tribal Police Officer for the Bishop Paiute Tribe at the time of the incident," the tribe said in a press release.

"It is unfortunate and regrettable that the Inyo County Sheriff’s Office and District Attorney has taken the unprecedented actions against Officer Johnson and fails to recognize the inherent tribal sovereignty of the Bishop Paiute Tribe (including the authority bestowed to our Tribal Police Department)," the tribe said.

District Attorney Tom Hardy is sticking by the charges. He said the county can exercise jurisdiction on the reservation.

"Because of Congress’s grant of criminal jurisdiction to California state authorities, this case has nothing to do with tribal sovereignty," Hardy said in a press release posted by The Sierra Wave.

The incident isn't the first clash between the tribe and the county. In a case that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, county officials went to the tribe's casino and used bolt cutters to take tribal records without the tribe's permission.

The court held that the tribe could not sue the county for infringing on its sovereignty.

Johnson joined the tribe's police force in November 2013, according to the tribe's January 2014 newsletter. He has over 20 years of experience and has worked for tribes in California and for other jurisdictions in California.

Get the Story:
Bishop Tribe supports officer; Inyo County has response (The Sierra Wave 2/17)

Supreme Court Decision in Inyo County v. Bishop Paiute Tribe:
Syllabus | Opinion [Ginsburg] | Concurrence [Stevens]

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