FARMINGTON — For tribal and state police, it's been a long 10 months.

For nearly a year, an agreement that since 1981 has allowed tribal and state police to cross-commission could not be used by state police.

Cross-commissioning allows both state and tribal police to make arrests of native and non-native people, enabling one department to help the other.

The agreement expired nearly a year ago, preventing state police from arresting American Indians who were in violation of tribal, local or state criminal or traffic laws while on tribal land.

The agreement was void on all lands of the state's 22 pueblos or tribes, including the Navajo Nation.

"There was a window where we were not effecting tribal enforcement," said Maj. Darren Soland of the New Mexico State Police.

While all calls to the state police received a response, the delayed renewal of the agreement burdened the department, Soland said.

State police officers often were on scene the quickest, or were closest to calls, but were unable to act as law enforcement and had to contact and wait for tribal police to respond.

In the Northwest corner of the state, the state police had particularly long waits because of the limited resources on the more than 27,000 square-mile expanse of the Navajo Nation.

The Navajo Police Department has 365 commissioned officers for the entire reservation.

"(Navajo Nation) officers are spread few and far between," said Soland.


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"There were times when it could get up to 15, 20 minutes ... up to an hour before they got there."

The Navajo Police Department responds to more than 289,000 calls each year, and makes about 39,000 arrests in that same time. There are only 65 beds available in the three corrections facilities in Shiprock, Crownpoint and Window Rock, according to the Navajo Nation Division of Public Safety's website.

"There's a whole range of crimes on the Navajo Nation," said Navajo Nation Council Delegate Russell Begaye, who voted to renew the agreement last week.

The agreement helps both departments keep crime rates down, Begaye said.

Navajo police sometimes help with border crimes, too, Begaye said, and are able to arrest non-Navajo individuals if the police go through the required training.

Both departments require training and certification before their officers are allowed to cross-commission.

Some counties in New Mexico also create cross-commissioning agreements with the state's tribes, though San Juan County is not among those that do.

Officers from the San Juan County Sheriff's Department can arrest non-Indians on the 62 percent of county land that is in the Navajo Nation.