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CSKT Tribal Police Chief discusses Lake County pulling out of Public Law 280

While Lake County and state leaders determine what happens next, there are a few changes that will occur.
CSKT Tribal Police Pablo
Posted at 10:50 AM, Dec 01, 2023

PABLO — Lake County officials announced earlier this month that they are withdrawing from Public Law 280, which states the county is responsible for funding and policing Tribal lands.

While county and state leaders determine what happens next, there are a few changes that will occur.

One is that while Lake County deputies can still respond to calls on the Flathead Indian Reservation, they are no longer required to do so. It's important to note, however, that Lake County law enforcement can still respond and assist if available.
Another change is that all tribal matters will be prosecuted through Tribal court and those arrested will be held in the Tribal detention center. Since Lake County began discussing withdrawing from the 1963 law, CSKT Tribal Police have been working toward becoming independent with hopes of making the transition as seamless as possible.

Lake County is only responsible for prosecution and detention facility costs while CSKT Tribal Police are funded through the Tribe. CSKT Chief of Police Craige Couture wants to reassure the public that they will continue to serve residents no matter the jurisdiction.

"When we get a call that comes in, we don't ask if it’s Tribal or not Tribal — and we go to that call. We want to go to that call because that person needs law enforcement. So our goal is to get to that call, do our job. We'll figure out the prosecution jurisdiction after the fact. But if we can make a safe, that's the goal. That's really the underlying goal is get there, get the job done, make people safe." - CSKT Tribal Police Chief Craige Couture

This issue will now go before Gov. Greg Gianforte, who has six months to plan for what the future holds for Public Law 280.

We will keep you updated on any developments.