The Muscogee Creek Nation Lighthorse Police Department is expanding its traffic codes in response to a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling on tribal jurisdiction.
The nation's police chief Daniel Wind said these codes will allow all Green County law enforcement agencies to be on the same page.
"Because of the ruling, things have changed greatly obviously," Wind said. "Which means that we’ve had to increase services, we’ve had obviously an increase in call volume here at the police department."
Wind explained his department used to have control over just a select few areas and now their jurisdiction stretches 4,811 square miles across 11 counties. Wind also said that with thousands of tribal citizens on that reservation, they have seen a lot of traffic violations come through.
"We’ve gone from writing very few tickets to receiving stacks of tickets," Wind said. "When you’re dealing with close to 50 jurisdictions that are writing tickets every day, I can’t believe to tell you the numbers that are coming in. It can be anywhere from 50 to 70 a day."
Wind said before, they only had basic traffic codes, but with the ruling, the police department as well as the Creek Nation's Attorney General's Office knew they needed to make some changes. They created more than 90 pages of revised traffic laws, covering everything from traffic signs and bicycles, to texting and driving.
Wind also said these new traffic codes are game-changers for surrounding agencies like the Tulsa Police Department.
"How do we write a ticket for 20 to 25 miles over versus where we just wrote a ticket for 'speeding.' So one of the things we had to obviously do is to adapt that and make it a little bit easier for the outside agencies to be able to write the ticket and understand where it’s going to go," Wind said.
For example, when an officer in Tulsa writes a ticket for a tribal citizen, the fine and language is now the same across the Creek Nation's 11 counties.
"This again will help that seamlessness as far as dealing with traffic issues, so that way everyone is gonna be more comfortable when they write a ticket. They know that the punishment or the fine will be the same for this area to this area," Wind said.
Though most traffic violations are minor, fatal accidents or DUIs are major crimes that would go through federal or tribal court. Wind said these changes are just the beginning of changes they are planning to make in response to the supreme court ruling.
"We're going to continue to grow, and we are going to continue to do everything we can to meet the needs of every Oklahoman that lives within our reservation," Wind said.
Muskogee Creek Nation Attorney General Roger Wiley said other tribal traffic laws as well as model traffic codes adopted by various states were used to develop the new code.
MCN Code Annotated Title 22 entitled, “Traffic Code” has been repealed and the new law sits under Title 14, “Crimes and Punishments” subchapter, “Jurisdiction; Lighthorse Authority.”
Wind said they will send the new codes to law enforcement agencies across Eastern Oklahoma by the end of this week.