Joe Garcia: It's time for action on law enforcement
"Indian country has lived with horrifically high rates of violent crime in our communities for years, and it appears that this reality has finally caught the attention of policy-makers and the public. Much of the momentum on this issue was sparked by the efforts of the Indian women leaders who pushed the tribal amendments to the Violence Against Women Act of 2005. We have also been aided by countless visits by tribal leaders to Washington to raise this issue, federal crime reports that demonstrate the dramatically higher rates of violent crime on Indian reservations, news articles that have highlighted the problems, and most recently the Amnesty International Report, ''Maze of Injustice.''

Recent actions of important members of Congress and the Bush administration suggest that Washington, D.C., is finally listening, and there is a window of opportunity right now to make constructive change. I had the opportunity to testify recently before the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs and made the following four proposals.

First, we need to reaffirm and support tribal government authority to protect their communities. Since the Oliphant decision in 1978, the National Congress of American Indians has urged Congress to reaffirm tribal inherent criminal jurisdiction over all persons within Indian country. NCAI has also long advocated for an amendment to Public Law 280 that would allow tribes to initiate retrocession.

Second, we need to improve and hold accountable the federal law enforcement response at the Department of Justice. The one-two punch of the Major Crimes Act and the sentencing limitations in the Indian Civil Rights Act leave tribes dependent on the DOJ for investigation and prosecution of major felonies on most reservations.

Third, we need to increase cooperation between tribal, state and federal law enforcement. Criminals do not respect jurisdictional boundaries. Law enforcement has been significantly improved where tribal, state and local police work together, but too many local law enforcement agencies are reluctant to work with tribal law enforcement.

Fourth, we need to increase resources for law enforcement. Basic law enforcement protection and services are severely inadequate on Indian reservations. To put it in perspective, Indian country law enforcement officers make up 0.004 percent of all law enforcement officers in the United States, yet they patrol 2 percent of the land of the United States and 1 percent of the population. Funding must be increased and streamlined for police, courts and detention and rehabilitation facilities."

Get the Story:
Joe Garcia: It's time for action (Indian Country Today 9/28)

Committee Notice:
OVERSIGHT HEARING on the prevalence of violence against Indian women (September 27, 2007)

Amnesty International Report:
Full Report | Press Release

Online Discussion:
Violence against Native American and Alaska Native Women (April 24, 2007)

Relevant Links:
Join Voices with Native American and Alaska Native Women and Take Action to Stop the Violence - http://www.amnestyusa.org/maze

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