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Warm Springs police chief details why they won’t curb drug enforcement, despite M. 110

'We just won't be enforcing the state violation portion,' Bill Elliott says

WARM SPRINGS, Ore. (KTVZ)-- While voter-approved Measure 110 will largely decriminalize possessing small amounts of several hard drugs in Oregon, law enforcement on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation says it will continue to enforce drug laws.

And that means for non tribal members passing through the reservation as well.

Indian reservations have sovereignty and largely govern themselves.

Warm Springs Police Chief Bill Elliott spoke to NewsChannel 21 on Thursday about his recent statement regarding the continuation of illegal drug enforcement.

"Right now, the laws that were currently in effect, that were authorized by Tribal Council, still remain in effect," he said. "The federal laws that were authorized by Congress still remain in effect. The only difference is that we just won't be enforcing the state violation portion of it."

Elliott said if a non-tribal member was passing through the reservation while criminally possessing drugs, they could be charged and sent to federal court.

He also discussed how most drugs get onto the reservation.

"For the most part, the drugs do come in from the outside," he said. "We don't have drug labs going on here -- we're not a producer-type community."

Warm Springs Lieutenant of Investigations Josh Capehart said drugs like suspected methamphetamine that was confiscated get trafficked into the reservation.

"So the drugs are coming in from outside areas, and being distributed by low-level dealers to users in the community," he said.

And illegal drugs are proving to be a health problem on the reservation.
Chief Elliott said last year, his department responded to more than 200 calls for things like fentanyl overdoses.

Capehart said the illegal drugs have a wide range of effects on users, and impacts on the community.

"We've seen people injuring themselves by attempting to break into houses, for instance," he said. "People who might be getting aggressive with police or family members while coming off of certain drugs."

Elliott said while they will still be enforcing drug laws, "It's not like you're going to arrest somebody for simple possession, and they're going to go to jail for, like, years."

He does add, however, that arrests and court-mandated rehabilitation tend to get people to go and get help, who otherwise wouldn't.

"We have to look at the other side of the picture, which is protecting the people that aren't utilizing drugs, and then become the victim of somebody that has an abuse problem -- burglaries, assaults -- especially when you're talking about legalizing something like meth."

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Blake Allen

Blake Allen is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Blake here.


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