Tribal Law Enforcement
First Tribe-Specific Crime Statistics
released by the Federal Bureau of Investigation
Some Law Enforcement Facts:
More than 200 police departments operate in Indian Country, serving an even
larger number of tribal communities. These departments range in size from only 2
or 3 officers to more than 200 officers. The communities they serve are as small
as the Grand Canyon-based Havasupai Tribe (with a population of only 600) and as
large as the Navajo Nation (with a population of more than 250,000 and a land
area larger than the State of Connecticut).
The most common administrative arrangement for police departments in Indian
Country is organization under the auspices of the Indian Self-Determination and
Education Assistance Act of 1975. Also known as Public Law 93–638 (PL 93–638),
this law gives tribes the opportunity to establish their own government
functions by contracting with the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). Thus, "638ed"
departments are administered by tribes under contract with the BIA’s Division of
Law Enforcement Services. Typically, a 638 contract establishes the department’s
organizational framework and performance standards and provides basic funding
for the police function. Officers and nonsworn staff of these departments are
tribal employees. Departments administered by the BIA are the second most common
type of police department in Indian Country. Staff in these departments are
Federal employees. For many years, patrol officers were under the line authority
of the local BIA superintendent (each reservation has a BIA superintendent who
oversees all or most of the BIA functions on that reservation), and criminal
investigators were under the line authority of the BIA’s Division of Law
Enforcement Services. Recent changes have placed line authority for patrol under
the BIA’s Division of Law Enforcement Services as well. Inadequate funding is an important obstacle to good policing in Indian
Country. Existing data suggest that tribes have between 55 and 75 percent of the
resource base available to non-Indian communities.
According to the National Congress of American
- Police in Indian Country function within a complicated
jurisdictional net, answer to multiple authorities, operate with limited
resources, and patrol some of the most desolate of territory often
without assistance from partner law enforcement agencies.
- There are only 2,380 Bureau of Indian Affairs and tribal uniformed
officers available to serve an estimated 1.4 million Indians covering
over 56 million acres of tribal lands in the lower 48 states.
- On tribal lands, 1.3 officers must serve every 1,000 citizens,
compared to 2.9 officers per 1,000 citizens in non-Indian communities
with populations under 10,000.
- A total of at least 4,290 sworn officers are needed in Indian
Country to provide the minimum level of coverage enjoyed by most
communities in the United States.
- Among the most important challenges facing these officers and
departments is providing around-the-clock police coverage to their
- These departments rarely have more than one officer on duty at any
time, and their officers often work without adequate backup. They are
true innovators, working across numerous police and administrative
- The lessons drawn by tribes and Congress from the research on and
accumulation of experience in community policing and the design of
effective governing institutions in Indian Country provide the necessary
starting points for tribes as they rethink policing.
- The challenge is to create workable, nation-specific policing
institutions and approaches informed by traditional customs-since they
lay the best foundation for improving safety, preventing crime, and
promoting the practice of effective policing in Indian Country.
Methamphetamine has become a serious problem on tribal lands. According to a
2006 Bureau of Indian Affairs survey of 96 law enforcement agencies in Indian
- 74 percent said meth was biggest drug threat they faced.
- 60 percent said meth arrests had gone up in past year.
- 43 percent said powdered meth is highly available on their reservations.
- 46 percent said crystal meth is highly available.
- 64 percent said meth was responsible for an increase in domestic
- 64 percent said assault and battery had increased because of meth.
- 57 percent said burglaries were up because of meth.
- 48 percent said child abuse and neglect cases were up because of meth.
- 90 percent said they want drug investigation training.
- 75 percent said they were paying more overtime to their officers to deal
- 16 percent said there were high rates of meth production on their
- 69 percent said their tribes don't sponsor meth rehabilitation programs.
- 34 percent said they have some prevention programs to address meth.
- 19 percent said they are planning to launch meth programs.
- 30 percent said they had a tribal drug court.
- 56 percent said they have no program.
- 14 percent said they were planning to create a drug court.
- 49 percent said they were participating in an interagency task force on
(Source: The Desert Sun (Palm Springs, CA), August 21, 2006)
Tribal Law Enforcement (2000) presents information on the characteristics of
tribally operated law enforcement agencies in the United States, including
personnel, services, and functions. These selected findings include a special
section on crime in Indian country. Agency data are taken from the 2000 Census
of State and Local Law Enforcement Agencies. Highlights include the following:
- Tribally operated agencies employed 3,462 full-time personnel, including
2,303 sworn (67%) and 1,159 nonsworn (33%).
- A majority of tribally operated agencies provided court security (56%)
and search and rescue operations (53%).
- Thirty-seven percent of tribally operated agencies had at least one
full-time sworn school resource officer.
The National Congress of American Indians
Law Enforcement Agreements between various state and Tribal governments.
BJA Toll Free Number
To increase customer service to the field, the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA)
has established a toll free number. In the future, simply call (866) 859-2687
to speak with a BJA assistant.
- Improving Criminal History Records in Indian Country, 2004-2006 describes
the achievements of the Tribal Criminal History Records Improvement Program (T-CHRIP)
which provides grants to federally recognized tribes to improve data sharing
across tribal, state and national criminal records systems.
- Revitalizing Communities:
Innovative State and Local Programs
documents a variety of initiatives,
including several among Native American tribal communities, that focus on
preventing crime and its consequences through community revitalization. Among
the problems targeted by these programs are neighborhood blight, drug
trafficking, and related crime, as well as inappropriate or ineffective jail
sentences for nonviolent offenders. Of particular concern is a significant
population of youth at risk for dropout, delinquency, and violent crime.
- Census of Tribal Justice Agencies in Indian Country, 2002 presents detailed information
gathered on tribal law enforcement agencies, tribal courts and services, and
criminal record systems from the 2002 Census of Tribal Justice Agencies in
American Indian Jurisdictions. This project represents one of several components
of BJS' on-going program to improve justice statistics and criminal history
record information systems in Indian country. The report includes data on the
number of law enforcement agencies and officers; characteristics of tribal
courts and their caseloads; types of available criminal sanctions; and criminal
justice statistics data collection and sharing capacity. The census collected
data from nearly 350 tribes in the continental U.S. and is the first
comprehensive effort to identify the range of justice agencies operating in
tribal jurisdictions, the services those agencies provide, and the types of
information systems maintained.
- Victim Rights in Indian Country - an
Assistant United States Attorney Perspective,
Christopher Chaney, discusses the implications of various laws and
prosecution principles and how they affect cases. There are jurisdictional
principles that govern Indian country criminal prosecutions. For example,
the Major Crimes Act (18 U.S.C. § 1153) and the Indian Country General
Crimes Act (18 U.S.C. § 1152) provide the jurisdictional basis for most
federal prosecutions of criminal offenses which occur in Indian country (18
U.S.C. § 1151). There are evidentiary principles and constitutional
principles that govern all federal criminal prosecutions. In addition to all
of this, there are established principles which apply when dealing with
victims and witnesses of federal crime.
Promising Practices for Improving Safety in Indian Country 2006
the legislative, programmatic, law enforcement and courts promising
practices that are making life safer for Indian people all around the United
States. Contact information for the leaders who have developed or who manage
these efforts are included in the hope that these programs can be shared and
implemented in many other locations around the country. The programs cited
in this report make it clear that significant progress, both in program
innovation and law enforcement leadership, is being made in Indian country.
Tribes continue to build strong partnerships between federal, state, local,
and county law enforcement and justice agencies that are promoting and
improving safety in Indian county.
- Improving Safety in Indian Country: Recommendations from the IACP 2001
summit recommendations – drafted in breakout groups and then affirmed by all
participants – address six issue areas in which change is necessary in order
to improve safety in Indian country: 1) Jurisdictional Issues in Indian
Country 2) Resources for Indian Country Law Enforcement, Justice and Program
Agencies 3) Training and Education for Indian Country Law Enforcement,
Justice and Program Agencies 4) Coordination and Cooperation among Indian
Country Law Enforcement, Justice and Program Agencies 5) Response to Victims
of Crime in Indian Country 6) Prevention Strategies to Reduce Crime.
Enforcement in Indian Country: The Struggle for a Solution,
Jonathan Mills and Kara Brown - In response to a request by the California
Research Bureau, this paper outlines the legal framework governing law
enforcement on Indian reservations in California and discusses various
approaches to improving reservation safety. It also briefly discusses the
procedure by which California could return jurisdiction over reservations to
the federal government (“retrocession”).
with Indian Nations by American Indian
Development Associates highlights successful strategies that define the
unique government-to-government relationship that exists between the Indian
nations and the U.S. government.
Country Law Enforcement and the Challenges of Enforcing Underage Drinking
American Indian Development Associates
provides insight into the unique challenges facing tribal law enforcement and
includes a survey of relevant laws and suggested strategies for effective
enforcement of underage drinking laws.
- Sarah Deer & Melissa Tatum, Tribal
Efforts to Comply with VAWA's Full Faith and Credit Requirements: A Response to
39 Tulsa L.
R. 403 (2003).
The Violence Against Women Act requires state and tribal governments to enforce
one another's protection orders and this article explores the various problems
with the cross-jurisdictional enforcement of protection orders in Indian
- Indigenous Justice Systems and Tribal
Justice, by Ada Pecos Melton
Indigenous justice systems are based on a holistic philosophy. Law is a way of
life, and justice is a part of the life process . . .
- Resolving State - Tribal Jurisdictional
Dilemmas, by Stanley G. Feldman and David L. Withey
As a project of the Conference of Chief Justices is demonstrating, it is
possible through communication and cooperation to minimize jurisdictional
problems between state and tribal courts.
- Policing on American
Indian Reservations by Stewart Wakeling, Miriam Jorgensen and Susan Michaelson
reports that crime is increasing dramatically in Indian Country, but little is known about
how the unique context of Indian Country — the culture, geography, and economy,
for example — affects law enforcement policies and practices. This article
summarizes the findings from the authors’ exploratory report on policing on
American Indian reservations.
Improving Safety in Indian Country: Recommendations from the IACP 2001 Summit
reports that it is both critical and timely for policymakers at all levels of government
(tribal, federal, state and local) to respond to Indian country’s crime and
safety concerns. responding, however, it is important to remember that the
problems are multi-faceted, and that the responses must be multi-faceted as
well. Improving safety in the day-to-day lives of the residents of Indian
country is the responsibility of a broad range of justice institutions both
within and outside of Indian country – not just law enforcement officials.
Improving safety necessitates the involvement of social service and public
health providers, tribal and non-Indian politicians, federal and state
officials, youth workers and the residents of tribal communities, among others.
Gangs in Indian Country
describes the nature and makeup of youth gangs in Indian Country by drawing on
research findings from a survey conducted by the National Youth Gang Center (NYGC).
This Bulletin presents data regarding the presence and effect of youth gang
activity in Indian Country and provides an overview of programmatic responses to
the problem. To better understand the gang problem in Indian Country, the
Bulletin compares data from NYGC’s 2000 Survey of Youth Gangs in Indian Country
with data from a national sample of survey respondents and from a field study of
gangs in the Navajo Nation. Drawing on these research findings, the Bulletin
proposes proven prevention, intervention, and suppression strategies to address
the problem of youth gangs in Indian Country.
Victims of Domestic Violence: A Law Enforcement Officer's Guide to Enforcing
Orders of Protection Nationwide was supported by a Cooperative
Agreement awarded by the Violence Against Women Grants Office, Office of Justice
Programs, U.S. Department of Justice, to the International Association of Chiefs
- From the Internet Archive Project:
Law Enforcement Agencies
Country/Special Jurisdiction Unit (IC/SJU) is responsible for
developing and implementing strategies, programs, and policies
to address identified crime problems in Indian Country for which
the FBI has responsibility. As of 2005, there are over 560
federally recognized Indian tribes and approximately 297 Indian
reservations nationwide. The ICU's responsibilities include:
management of manpower resources; oversight of budgetary and
resource issues; procurement of services and equipment; and the
provision of assistance and training to Special Agents of the
FBI, Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), and tribal officers to
ensure that criminal investigations are performed in an
effective, professional manner.
The Indian Gaming Investigations/The Indian
Gaming Working Group (IGWG) was created by the FBI
and National Indian Gaming Commission. The IGWG's purpose is
to identify resources to address the most pressing criminal violations in the
area of Indian gaming. This group consists of representatives from a variety of
FBI subprograms (i.e. Economic Crimes Unit, Money Laundering Unit, LCN/Organized
Crime Unit, Asian Organized Crime Unit, Public Corruption/Government Fraud Unit,
Cryptographic Racketeering Analysis Unit, and Indian Country Special
Jurisdiction Unit) and other federal agencies, which include Department of
Interior Office of Inspector General (DOI-OIG), NIGC, Internal Revenue Service
Tribal Government Section (IRS-TGS), Department of Treasure Financial Crimes
Enforcement Network (FINCEN), Department of Justice (DOJ), and Bureau of Indian
Affairs Office of Law Enforcement Services (BIA-OLES).
The Office of Community Oriented
Policing Services (COPS) created a series of programs to meet the needs of
law enforcement in Native American communities, including:
- Tribal Resource Grant Program (TRGP) is a broad grant program
designed to meet law enforcement needs in Native American communities and
villages. This program offers a wide variety of funding in areas such as
hiring additional officers, law enforcement training, uniforms, basic issue
equipment, emerging technologies, and police vehicles.
- Tribal Hiring Renewal Grant Program (THRGP) is designed to assist
fiscally distressed tribal governments by renewing previous COPS hiring
grant positions that have been exempted from the retention requirement on
recently expired COPS hiring grants. The THRGP
provides 100 percent of allowable salary and benefit costs for renewed
officer positions with no local funding match requirement for an additional
2 year period. This program focuses on Native American communities and
villages which have limited resources, many of which are affected by high
rates of crime and violence.
- Tribal Mental Health and Community Safety Initiative (MHCSI)
provides funding directly to tribal jurisdictions with established law
enforcement agencies. The MHCSI offers a variety of funding options,
including entry-level salaries and benefits of newly hired officers,
training, uniforms, basic issue equipment, officer-related technology, and
vehicles for new and existing police officers. The MHCSI was designed to
expand the implementation of community policing and meet the most serious
needs of law enforcement in Native American communities and villages through
a broadened comprehensive program. All officers hired under the MHCSI grant
program (or an equal number of veteran, locally funded officers) must serve
as school resource and/or community resource officers. The MHCSI grant
program is intended to strengthen the overall law enforcement infrastructure
in Native American communities and villages.
- Tribal Court Pilot Program (TCPP) funding is intended to provide
assistance to address the increase in caseloads associated with increased
arrests anticipated from grant funding to support tribal law enforcement.
Specifically, this program funds 100 percent of the total costs to implement
one or more of the following: 1) salaries and benefits to hire additional
court personnel (e.g., probation officers, process servers); 2)
additional training for new and existing court personnel; 3) additional
technology to improve and enhance case management (e.g., computer
hardware, software); and 4) any other measure that may provide a significant
improvement in case management and is not otherwise funded with tribal,
state, or local funds.
The BJA Law Enforcement Training
Database is a catalog of all federally funded and supported training
available to state and local law enforcement officials. Each database listing
includes the training provider, a course description, eligibility criteria, and
contact information. In addition, the Bureau of Justice
Assistance (BJA) has a specialized
database for Law Enforcement Training
opportunities. Agencies listed in the law enforcement database may be contacted
for further information. Drug court practitioners also may receive training
though BJA's National Drug Court
Training and Technical Assistance Program.
Tribal Justice Information Sharing System
(TJISS) is a free resource for Tribal governments, communities, and
organizations throughout the United States. Our goal is to empower Tribal
agencies with the knowledge they need to self-access their technological
strengths and weaknesses. With the information available on this Web site,
Tribal agencies can better implement current information technology systems and
be more informed when working with vendors. TJISS is a part of the Tribal
Technology Information Outreach Program (TTISOP) of the Center for Information
Technology Engineering (CITE) at the
National Center for Rural Law
Enforcement (NCRLE). NCRLE is a division of the
Criminal Justice Institute (CJI).
Law Enforcement Organizations
The National Native American Law Enforcement
Association (NNALEA) is a nonprofit organization founded in 1993 in
Washington, D.C. and incorporated under the state of Delaware. The mission of
the NNALEA is to promote and foster mutual cooperation between American Indian
Law Enforcement Officers/Agents/Personnel, their agencies, tribes, private
industry and public.
Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) provides training and technical
assistance in the following areas: firearms interdiction, model law enforcement
policies, special needs of small police departments, and antidrug activities
involving illegal aliens.
The Officer Down Memorial Page, Inc., (ODMP)
is a non-profit organization dedicated to honoring America's fallen law
enforcement heroes, including
Police Officers killed in the line of duty.
Tribal Police Departments
Tribal Police Department
Bay Mills Indian Community Law Enforcement
Chickasaw Nation Lighthorse Police Department
Choctaw Nation Law Enforcement Program
Citizen Potawatomi Nation Police Department
d'Alene Tribal Police Department
Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal Law and Order Department
Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation Public Safety Department
Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation Tribal Police Department
Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation Public Safety Department
Coquille Tribal Police Department
Crow Nation Public Safety Department
McDowell Yavapai Nation Police Department
Fort Oakland Police Department
Gila River Community Tribal Police Department
Hoopa Valley Tribal Police Department
- Hualapai Tribe
Iowa Tribe of Nebraska Police Department
Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma Police Department
Keweenaw Bay Community Tribal Police Department
River Band of Ottawa Tribal Police Department
Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Law Enforcement Department
Lower Elwha Klallam Tribal Police Department
Menominee Nation Tribal Police
Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe Tribal Police Department
Mississippi Band of Choctaw Police Department
Mohegan Tribal Police Department
Mohican Nation Stockbridge-Munsee Band Division of Public Safety
Narragansett Tribal Police Department
- Navajo Nation Division of
Nez Perce Tribal Law Enforcement Department
Nooksack Tribal Law Enforcement Department
Nation Police Department
Pascua Yaqui Tribal Police Department
Passamaquoddy Tribal Law Enforcement Department
Nation Police Department
Poarch Creek Tribal Police Department
- Pokagon Band
of Potawatomi Tribal Police Department
Port Gamble S'Klallam Tribal Police Department
Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation Law Enforcement Program
Pueblo of Cochiti Police Department
Pueblo of Sandia Police Department
Colony Tribal Police Department
Sac and Fox Nation Department of Law Enforcement
- Saginaw Chippewa Tribal
Saint Regis Mohawk Tribal Police Department
- San Carlos
Apache Tribal Police Department
Sauk-Suiattle Tribal Public Safety Department
Sault Ste. Marie Chippewa Tribal Police Department
Skokomish Nation Department of Public Safety
Squaxin Island Tribal Public Safety Department
Swinomish Tribal Police Department
Band of the Kumeyaay Nation Police Department
Tunica-Biloxi Tribal Police Department
Washoe Tribal Police Department
Wells Band Colony Tribal Police Department
White Earth Band of Minnesota Chippewa Tribal Public Safety Department