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Law of the Land: A look at tribal police training ahead of South Bend casino opening

Law of the Land: A look at tribal police training ahead of South Bend casino opening. // WSBT 22

It's the first time there's sovereign Native American land in the state of Indiana, and part of that land houses a new casino.

South Bend's Four Winds Casino opens Tuesday. It's expected to bring more than 2 million people to the area each year.

Although the moment you turn onto the road that leads to the casino, you're leaving St. Joseph County and South Bend. It's considered a country within a country.

For some, a place like a casino is a place to escape, to let go for just a couple of hours.

Though for Bob Moody, the vice chairman of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians, the land the casino sits on is much more than a couple of hours of fun. It's the result of blood, sweat and tears-- dating back centuries.

"When were the Pokagons first here? It traces all the way back to the 1500's and 1600's," said Moody.

It's now sovereign land, with its own set of rules.

"Like a country within a country. We are our own entity," he said.

That so-called country, is even equipped with its own police force.

"Seven days a week, every single day, no matter what the holiday is. We are just going to be like any other police agency," said Lieutenant Scott Hanley.

Scott Hanley spent 24 years as a South Bend Police Officer.

"When I left there I was the captain of the day shift. I had gone from patrolman through the ranks and made it to captain," Hanley recalled.

This year, he's putting on a different hat as a Lieutenant of the Pokagon Police force. It's clear he's a veteran in policing, but a rookie with the Pokagons.

"When you throw in tribal law and incorporate the tribal law with the federal law, with the state law, you have to learn a whole different aspect of what's taking place," said Hanley.

Before Hanley could put on that hat donned with the Pokagon badge, he had to go through extensive training.

WSBT 22 sat in on a class all tribal officers have to attend. Jeff Davis an Assistant U.S Attorney teaches. It's called "Criminal Jurisdiction in Indian Country."

"This training is to provide officers, tribal and local, with an understanding of jurisdiction in Indian country," said Davis. "If an officer doesn't have this training where he gets a license to enforce federal laws, they cannot arrest non-Indians."

The laws vary on Indian land, for example with a permit you can carry a gun in Indiana, but not at the casino.

"When you come onto tribal property, that's Indian property. It's no longer part of the state of Indiana," said Hanley.

The person making sure those laws of the land are obeyed will be one of the 13 officers that Hanley oversees.

They're disciplined and prepared, like any other department.

"Interacting with everything and every aspect of law enforcement," he said.

They're also a unique group of enforcers. A symbol of a bear marks the side of each police car.

"When it came to those that pretty much let the peace in our villages and our communities, as we say today our police force, that was a bear clan society," said Moody. "The bear clan were the folks that were really responsible for taking care of all the people in a community."

That bear clan is still watching over the community all these years later.

"We evolved that today to being that little symbol on the side of all of our cruisers and the police force, the badges and the uniform," said Moody.

The history of the Pokagons is now living on through a modern luxury.

Although, as you drive on tribal land and enter into Four Winds, there's subtle reminders of whose land this really is.

"When you look at what you have here today, we are still carrying out those same concepts, those same teachings, we are trying to do it the best way we can," said Moody. "We are still continuing on. It's maybe a little different way of doing things, but with the same thought in mind."

The Pokagon Police have mutual aid agreements with both the St. Joseph County Sheriff's Department and the South Bend Police Department. If any of the three agencies needs assistance, they can help one another.

South Bend's Four Winds Casino opens on Tuesday at 4 p.m.

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