County attorney says CIN police have no authority without reservation

Seneca County Attorney Frank Fisher said the recently announced Cayuga Indian Nation Police Department has no police authority because the Nation does not have a reservation.

“This is just my opinion, but they do not have the authority to enforce state laws on property owned by the Cayugas unless an official reservation is created,” Fisher said recently. “Anyone enforcing the law and making arrests from this police force should be charged with impersonating a police officer.”

Fisher said the city of Sherrill vs. Oneida Indian Nation U.S. Supreme Court case is the legal authority for his opinion on the CIN police department.

“That case determined that the Cayugas do not have a reservation, unlike several other New York tribes. That case was very specific. Unless the tribe is given sovereignty, it cannot exercise police authority on land it owns. They cannot tell local, county or state police what to do,” Fisher said.

The Cayugas have applied to the Bureau of Indian Affairs to put 129 of their approximate 1,200 acres in Seneca and Cayuga counties into federal, tax-exempt trust. If that is granted, a CIN police force could exercise police authority over those 129 acres, but no more of the tribe’s land until and if that is also put into trust and a sovereign reservation created.

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