Editorial: More cooperation for law enforcement on reservations
"Reservation communities share concurrent criminal jurisdiction with either the federal government or, in Public Law 280 jurisdictions, county-state governments. The exact mechanisms by which tribal, state or federal authorities share policing and justice is not well-defined. The expression of concurrent jurisdiction seems to imply a sharing of authority over criminal policing and courts among tribes, county-state, and federal government. For the most part, however, the sharing of authority or jurisdiction by tribal, county-state or federal authorities is more the exception than the rule.

In federal jurisdictions, federal courts and the Federal Bureau of Investigation manage major crimes. It’s well-known, however, at least from the tribal perspective, that tribal communities have little faith in the federal court system or the FBI. The federal courts are seen as far away and distant. U.S. attorneys and federal judges are not well-trained to understand tribal law, federal Indian law, and generally have little understanding of tribal cultures or histories.

U.S. attorneys often decline cases if they feel they lack evidence. The federal courts, in general, do not take up the types of criminal cases that arise in Indian country, because outside of Indian country, most major crimes are handled by state authorities. FBI agents have little cultural understanding of tribal communities, do not get much cooperation since they are not familiar with reservation communities, and have limited assignments to Indian country, which prevents them from gaining significant on-the-job experience and training. For both FBI agents and U.S. attorneys, criminal cases from Indian country often are considered low priority. Even when U.S. attorneys decline a case, they are often not quickly, or sometimes never, sent back to tribal courts that hold concurrent jurisdiction for crimes on reservations.

The state and county courts and police in Public Law 280 jurisdictions are not seen by tribal members as a solution to management of reservation crime issues. County-state police are seen by tribal members as culturally unaware and lacking in direct experience with tribal communities. Tribal community members are often reluctant to trust and cooperate with county-state police. County-state courts, as well as federal courts, are seen by tribal members as not fair or culturally sensitive to tribal defendants or tribal crime victims."

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Editorial: Concurrent jurisdiction is not working (Indian Country Today 9/17)