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Policing on American Indian Reservations

NCJ Number
Date Published
January 2000
112 pages
This paper reports on a study that took a broad look at policing in Indian Country and evaluated the prospects for community policing on American Indian reservations.
The broad look at policing in Indian Country was designed to produce a better understanding of the many arrangements for administering reservation police departments, an initial assessment of the challenges facing Indian policing, and the identification of policing approaches that might be successful in responding to the increasing crime problem on Indian reservations. This paper first develops the context of policing in Indian Country by identifying the variety of socioeconomic, cultural, and political conditions that characterize Indian Country today and by offering a brief description of the typical Indian police department. Next, the paper describes the crime problems to which these departments must respond; this description is prefaced with a discussion of the difficulties in obtaining reliable and useful crime data from Indian Country. The paper then addresses problems of organization and management. After a more in-depth description of the range of police departments in Indian Country, data are presented on reporting structures, staffing, and funding. Specific examples are then provided from site visits to give a clearer picture of the primary management challenges faced by reservation police departments. The severity of these challenges leads to a consideration of whether the resource constraints identified fully explain the policing problems. In determining that resource constraints do not fully explain the policing problems, this report looks beyond budgetary considerations to the history of reservation policing, particularly the impact of Federal policy. The report's central conclusion is that Federal policy has failed to promote the ability of Indian nations to design and exert meaningful control over their own policing institutions. 3 tables, 112 references, and appended survey questionnaires

Date Published: January 1, 2000