Q&A – BPD, FBI agreement: The weapons clause

February 9, 2021

Is it true that Bartlesville police officers participating in the new FBI task force won’t be carrying firearms?

In short: No, it’s not.

This erroneous report stemmed from a memorandum of understanding (MOU) approved by the City Council during a public meeting on Feb. 1 between the City of Bartlesville and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The MOU allows Bartlesville Police Department officers to participate in the Tulsa Safe Trails Task Force, a task force that was created to help the state deal with jurisdictional issues created by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in July 2020.

City Beat readers may recall an agreement approved by the council in November 2020 cross deputizing Bartlesville police and Tribal police. This gave both law enforcement entities jurisdiction to prosecute crimes committed by and/or against enrolled members of Indian tribes. This was necessary due to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in McGirt v. Oklahoma, which found that the State of Oklahoma lacked jurisdiction to prosecute crimes committed by and/or against enrolled members of Indian tribes within Indian Country.

“Indian Country” is described as all land within the limits of any Indian reservation under the jurisdiction of the U.S. government. This includes Bartlesville, which lies completely within the reservation of the Cherokee Nation. The council voted in support of this agreement, which gave Bartlesville police the authority to enforce Oklahoma laws even in cases where the defendant and/or the victim of the crime is an Indian tribe member.

The MOU approved Feb. 1 with the FBI extends jurisdiction in U.S. Federal Court for participating members of the newly formed Tulsa Safe Trails Task Force, essentially giving local law enforcement jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute federal cases occurring in Bartlesville, which, of course, is located within the Cherokee Nation reservation.

It might be important to note the mission of the Tulsa STTF is “to identify and target for prosecution criminal enterprise groups responsible for drug trafficking, money laundering, alien smuggling, crimes of violence such as murder and aggravated assault, robbery, and violent street gangs, as well as to intensely focus on the apprehension of dangerous fugitives where there is or may be a federal investigative interest,” the MOU states. Further, the agreement points out, “the STTF will enhance the effectiveness of federal/state/local law enforcement resources through a well-coordinated initiative seeking the most effective investigative/prosecutive avenues by which to convict and incarcerate dangerous offenders.”

What does any of this have to do with BPD officers/task force members carrying or not carrying lethal weapons? Well, nothing, really. Except that there is a small clause in the MOU stating that task force officers must be trained and approved by their own agencies to carry weapons that are “less than lethal” while working on task force cases. This essentially means anything other than firearms, including such items as rubber bullets, tasers and the like.

So to clarify: BPD officers will continue to carry their department-issued firearms, including while working on task force cases. Additionally, while working task force cases they will be allowed to carry the non-lethal weapons for which they have been trained and approved to carry by the Bartlesville Police Department.

Just wondering

I was wondering what is happening with the Burger Hop building at  900 S.W. Frank Phillips Blvd.?

The Community Development Department has not yet received any official information on plans for this location, but indications are it will be a medical marijuana dispensary.

Are we there yet?

When will Popeyes open?

The Community Development Department has not received a target date for completion of the restaurant, which will be located in the former Sooner Motel site on Washington Boulevard. The project is still in plan review at this time.

Correction

In the Feb. 2 edition of City Beat, the answer to a question about the city’s outdoor weather warning system contained incorrect information. Testing of the siren system is done at 1:15 p.m. on the first Monday of each month, weather permitting, not every Monday as stated. (The alternate test day is the second Monday of the month, also weather permitting.) Also, maintenance of the system is performed by the City of Bartlesville, not Washington County Emergency Management. WCEM only monitors, tests and activates the sirens on behalf of the City. We apologize for the error.