Tribal Members Respond to Heavy Police Presence on the Reservation

Tuesday, December 5, 2017 | by Joe Morey |

Many residents of the Lac Courte Oreilles Reservation have noticed a large increase in police patrolling their neighborhoods and pulling people over, whether it be LCO Police or Sawyer County Sheriff’s deputies.

They’ve taken to social media to mention it, share it and discuss it, but it’s not to denounce the police presence, it’s just the opposite. According to a poll on the Lac Courte Oreilles Today group page on Facebook, 55 tribal members said they didn’t think there were enough police patrolling the reservation, while only seven said there were too many cops. Four tribal members said the amount of police on patrol was ‘just right.’

Brandon DeBrot was one of those who felt there were too many. He said that although it is a good thing they are going after the drug dealers, “We’ve got tribal, county and state. They get bored and pull over everyone, some people are just trying to get to work.”

Some tribal members have asked whether the large amount of police pulling people over really helps versus going after the homes.

Sawyer County Sheriff Doug Mrotek said people have constitutional rights and privacy issues when it comes to their homes. They don’t have those same rights when they are in their vehicles, the sheriff said.

“The Supreme Court has ruled on this,” Mrotek said. “And we have to work within these parameters, and we respect people and their rights.”

Mrotek said he believes “absolutely” they are making a difference with a heavier police patrol. “When they know there is a squad there, they are conscious and alert. How many people will hit the brakes when they see a squad, or wear their seat belts,” Mrotek said. “We are creatures of habit and by having more law enforcement presence, it is a deterrent.”

The sheriff said when it’s dealing with drug dealers, “We want them to know about Sawyer County, we want them to avoid Sawyer County, and I believe the heavier presence does just that.”

Mrotek said the heavier presence may help deter drug dealers from coming into the county. He said the pull overs have also removed a lot of drugs from the streets and resulted in felony charges against known drug dealers.

Mrotek said there are three K-9 units in the county, two with the sheriff and one with LCO Police. “These K-9 units are very effective tools, and they are used for officer protection and drug enforcement.”

Tribal members in support of the police presence said they are tired of the drug epidemic at LCO and the surrounding area.

“If this is what it’s going to take, then so be it,” commented Frank Miller in regards to the increased police presence.

Lana Campbell said she has been stopped twice and doesn’t mind it at all. “They are doing what needs to be done.”

One tribal member said to take it a few steps further, “Whatever has to be done to rid our communities of this deadly infection called meth and heroin. Tip lines. More qualified officers. Housing authority to provide unannounced home inspections. Tribal getting a few k9 units doing checks in parking lots, schools and clinic,” said Michelle Richter Englund. “We can't just sit back and watch it unfold. People need to rise up against it. The tribe needs to crack down on members who are involved in dealing this crap to our kids. Banish the dealers of all tribal services and rights for an extended period of time. I may seem harsh, but I know first-hand what exposure does to children.”

LCO Police Chief Tim DeBrot was unable to comment for this story prior to press time.

Sheriff Mrotek said the county and LCO Police work very well together.

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