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Policing on American Indian Reservations

NCJ Number
National Institute of Justice Journal Dated: January 2001 Pages: 2-7
Date Published
January 2001
6 pages
Publication Series
This study examines how the unique context of Indian Country affects law enforcement policies and practices.
Crime is increasing dramatically in Indian Country, but little is known about how such factors as culture, geography, and economy affect law enforcement policies and practices. The superficial description of Indian Country law enforcement shows a rural environment with rural-style policing, but these communities have a "government-to-government" relationship with the United States. While members of different tribes vary widely, most Indian nations face severe social and economic problems. The study was conducted by the Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management and the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development. It began with a literature review and visits to several Indian police departments and the Indian Police Academy in New Mexico. It included a two-part survey distributed to Indian police departments and intensive site visits to four reservations. The study concluded that there is a crisis in reservation policing, including: (1) high turnover and poor employee morale resulting in a lack of well-qualified and experienced officers; (2) flawed basic departmental management; (3) inadequate budgets, fiscal mismanagement, and even corruption; and (4) undue political interference in police operations. Suggested remedies for these problems include increased tribal control over tribal institutions, demotion of Federal agencies from decision makers to advisors and providers of technical assistance, and creation of workable, nation-specific community policing institutions and approaches informed by traditional customs. Notes

Date Published: January 1, 2001