Monday, August 22, 2011

Goingsnake Massacre

In law enforcement we are sometimes called to take actions that are not going to be popular. In those instances it is best to avoid a fight if at all possible. In the Goinsnake Massacre there was a jurisdictional dispute between a US Court and a Cherokee Tribal Court concerning who would try an accused murderer. In the event the US Court sent ten marshals to remove the suspect from Cherokee jurisdiction and bring him to the US Court for trial.

The Cherokee were just as determined to keep and try the suspect and in the event over twenty people were killed and more injured. This is an excellent example of officers who were acting in haste to perform an unpopular act and were met with a hostile and resistant population. The US Marshals could have sent in one marshal to discuss the handing over of the suspect. Once the Cherokee court refused to hand over the suspect the US Marshals could have returned to the US Court and told them of the Cherokee refusal.

Law enforcement agencies are well served by leaders who avoid getting them into jurisdictional disputes. They seldom end well for the agency and often create hard feelings and can lead to violence. As in this incident there was no exigent circumstance. The suspect was in custody and about to undergo a trial. While the US Court believed they had jurisdiction and not the Cherokee Court, it should have been handled by attorneys with papers not officers with guns. We are peace officers and our job is to keep the peace, not create a situation where officers are fighting with each other; that’s what the SGT Says.

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