OPINION: Listening in Lewiston

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Whether you’re browsing the shelves of a bookstore or scrolling through popular podcasts, you’ll have no trouble finding a guide to better listening. They teach that listening is art, listening is science, and listening is superpower. The proliferation of these topics reflects a shared understanding that true engagement in listening is incredibly important and often lacking.

So, when I watched a master class in listening last month, I decided it was worth sharing publicly. The Nez Perce Tribe graciously hosted my office and federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement for a full-day workshop in Lewiston. More than 100 law enforcement professionals participated representing 13 Idaho law enforcement agencies, including our partners in Clearwater, Idaho, Lewis and Nez Perce counties. We also have federal, state and tribal judges as well as defense attorneys involved.

The genesis of the workshop was a desire to discuss the intersection of federal, state, and tribal litigation in criminal cases on the Nez Perce Reservation. We definitely did that. But the day turned into something else.

Tribal and non-tribal police chiefs and sheriffs in their respective counties and states (the Nez Perce reservation includes Clearwater, Idaho, Lewis and Nez Perce counties) discussed their partnership. He explained how law enforcement officers communicate well, help each other out on calls for service, and work together to ensure justice is served when a crime is uncovered. Nez Perce tribal attorneys, law enforcement and professional staff shared the tribe’s history, heritage and practices, inviting non-tribal members like me to learn more about the vibrant culture of the Nez Perce and new points of reference for working with tribal members.

With a large group represented in the room and decades of experience, the event brought different perspectives on the best ways to promote public safety on the Nez Perce Reservation and surrounding counties. But the audience — tribal members and non-tribal law enforcement officers — listened attentively to perspectives different from their own and showed interest in unfamiliar topics.

There is more work to be done and more discussions about policing in overlapping regions. And we will continue to do so. Tribal law enforcement, sheriffs and elected prosecuting attorneys expressed a desire for new dialogue and a belief that there is an opportunity for greater cooperation and development of relationships in the region.

I am honored to be a part of an event where our partners show such engagement with each other. This spirit of respect and mutual understanding is unique and worthy of celebration. I want to thank the Nez Perce tribe – a sovereign nation with defined rights in relation to the federal and state governments – for inviting us in. I am grateful for the commitment shown by each of the participants on the day. The citizens of Idaho and the Nez Perce and other tribal nations should be proud that their law enforcement leaders recognize that not only seeking cooperation, but truly listening to each other, is the first step in building a successful partnership. We can all learn from this example.

Josh Hurwitt is the United States Attorney for the District of Idaho.

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