Eugenia Tyner-Dawson, Senior Advisor to the Assistant Attorney General For Tribal Affairs
Executive Director-Justice Programs Council On Native American Affairs
International Association of Chiefs of Police Indian Country Law Enforcement Section Mid-Year Meeting
Las Vegas, NV
March 17, 2008
Thank you for that kind introduction. I would like to thank the IACP staff, the Department of Justice staff, the staff from our federal partners, of course, our Tribal partners, and the wonderful people that planned the meeting. At OJP we have long valued our partnership with IACP, a partnership I believe will continue to thrive.
Last, but by no means least, I want to thank the Tribal leaders who are helping us to moderate and lead the discussion, and to all of you in attendance today for bringing your issues forward. Thank you for your hard work and commitment, and for taking time out of your busy schedules this week.
Let me emphasize that we are committed to improving law enforcement and criminal justice in Indian country, to combating substance abuse, and to ensuring that federally recognized Indian tribes are full partners in this effort.
I am here on behalf of Jeff Sedgwick, the OJP Acting Assistant Attorney General. He has only been in his position a short time, but he has made tribal issues a priority at OJP. He recently participated in our sixth tribal training and technical assistance session and our fifth consultation. We have expanded these sessions and brought in more federal partners. More tribal representatives are attending, a trend that I hope will continue.
We have already seen some results from the earlier consultations. We were asked that we do more to educate the federal workforce about the trust responsibilities and working with tribes on a government-to-government basis. We responded by developing an online Native Education training program for federal employees called “Working Effectively with Tribal Governments”. It is a great training program designed by an interagency working group of federal staff. I am pleased DOJ could play a major role in its development.
I invite you to view the training program while it is available on a limited timeframe at no cost until April 30, 2008. Simply go online and type in www.GoLearn.gov. Please let us know what you think about it.
After hearing from tribes about challenges and barriers to accessing OJP grants resources, we responded. OJP implemented a new Tribal Grants Policy beginning this fiscal year. The new policy is designed to result in more timely and thorough information to Tribes about available grants and their eligibility. It also should make it easier for Tribes to apply for OJP funds.
Another important outcome from our Tribal consultations has been establishing a Tribal Justice Advisory Group (TJAG). The TJAG, comprised of Tribal leaders and their designees, provides advice and assistance to Mr. Sedgwick on Tribal justice and safety issues. It convened its initial meeting in November and met again on March 7.
The TJAG will work closely with our Justice Programs Council on Native American Affairs. The Council coordinates OJP’s efforts on behalf of tribes and serves as a liaison with other Department of Justice components on tribal issues. Through the Council we have better informed Tribal leaders about our grants and program services, we have scheduled Tribal site visits for senior staff, and we have improved our outreach to Indian media to promote OJP’s Tribal justice and safety initiatives.
Perhaps our strongest area of outreach to Tribes has been on implementation of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act. On March 6 we convened our second National Tribal Symposium on Sex Offender Management and Accountability. We had very productive discussions about the challenges involved and how we can work together to get this done.
At the Tribal Training and Technical Assistance session we also discussed the problem of methamphetamine abuse in Tribal communities. We are pleased that our interdepartmental session held last July hosted the Office of National Drug Control Policy’s Tribal Methamphetamine Summit. We are also working closely with the Department of Health and Human Services to support their Indian Country Methamphetamine Initiative.
I am proud that OJP supported the development of a meth investigation training specifically tailored to tribal law enforcement, providing them with the information needed to conduct successful and safe meth investigations.
We conducted two trainings in Montana and South Dakota with nearly 200 tribal justice professionals trained in meth investigation. Future training sessions are scheduled for:
- Crow Nation, MT on April 29 and 30,
- Gila River and Salt River, AZ on May 6 and 7,
- Laguna, Zuni, and Acoma Pueblo, NM on May 12 and 13, and
- Choctaw Nation, OK on May 27 and 28.
We are planning additional training sessions for Nebraska, North Carolina, Washington state, and Wyoming.
In addition we are working with Fox Valley Technical College on training for tribal probation officers. Training sessions are scheduled for Neenah, WI later this month, Tucson, AZ in early May, Louisville, CO in late May, and Albuquerque, NM in October. We are also working with Fox Valley on the Native American Law Enforcement Summit, which is scheduled for September 29-October 1, 2008 in Hinckley, MN.
We have also worked to improve tribes’ ability to share information. Our Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) found that less than ten percent of Tribal criminal justice agencies are electronically linked within their jurisdictions. Our Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) is focused on improving information sharing. BJS works with Tribes to strengthen their capacity to collect, manage, and analyze crime data.
Also, through the Global Justice Information Sharing Initiative, Tribal, federal, state, local, and international organizations have worked together to overcome the barriers to justice information sharing. Tribal representatives have been an important part of these efforts.
As you are probably aware, Mr. Sedgwick is the National AMBER Alert Coordinator. We are exploring ways to raise awareness about the AMBER Alert program for residents in Indian Country. The AMBER Alert program is the nation’s first early warning system for missing and abducted children who are presumed to be in imminent danger.
In September 2007, we selected ten Tribal sites to serve as pilot communities as part of the Department's AMBER Alert in Indian Country Initiative. The sites will serve as models for other Tribal communities working to develop AMBER Alert plans so that children in Indian country can benefit from the AMBER Alert network. The sites also will bridge the gap between Tribal communities and state and regional AMBER Alert programs across the country.
In addition, we all recognize the need for improved research on crime in Indian Country, including what sort of programs are most effective in combating violence and substance abuse. Our National Institute of Justice (NIJ) is developing a National Tribal Crime & Justice Research and Evaluation Agenda. NIJ has several Tribal research projects underway, including a review of larger issues of criminal justice administration in Indian Country.
Consultations and training sessions are critical, but we must provide timely information to Tribes every day. One way we are doing this is through the Department of Justice’s Tribal Justice and Safety Web site, which features information on grants, training, technical assistance, publications, and conferences that can help tribal communities. The site also includes links to relevant laws and regulations.
The Web site has grown in popularity as we use it to keep Tribal communities informed on all of our Tribal initiatives. We are constantly looking for ways to improve the Web site, and would welcome any ideas or suggestions.
The problems Tribal communities are difficult and the solutions are anything but easy. We know there is a long road ahead, but we have made some progress. We can work together, and federal departments can come together to address the criminal justice issues and the public safety needs of our Native communities.
At OJP we know that consultation and collaboration work. We are committed to working with you and our many other partners in this effort.
Thank you for your attendance, for your commitment to your communities, and for all that you do.