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Research Priorities: Law Enforcement in Public Law 280 States

NCJ Number
Date Published
19 pages
This paper describes the 1953 Federal legislation, Public Law 280 authorizing State criminal jurisdiction into Indian country, and its impact on Indians in Indian country and the need and importance for research on Public Law 280 specific to Federal Indian policy and law enforcement issues.
In the past, States lacked criminal jurisdiction over crimes committed by Indians in Indian country. However, in 1953 the first comprehensive Federal legislation to introduce State criminal jurisdiction into Indian country was enacted and is known as Public Law 280. Unfortunately, it was adopted and implemented without the consent of the affected tribes thereby, and it did not provide any Federal financial support for the new State law enforcement responsibilities. Even though some clarity has been given to Public Law 280, there are still areas of uncertainty. Public Law 280 did not expressly abolish tribal justice system jurisdiction, diminish the Federal Government’s overall trust responsibility to tribes, or reject Federal obligations to provide services to tribes. Public Law 280 has stimulated tribal protests and complaints. Even though studies have been conducted on Public Law 280, it has not received research attention commensurate with its importance to Federal Indian policy and law enforcement concerns. Qualitative studies on the impact of Public Law 280 are hindered by current data collection practices. There is a need to improve data gathering, record keeping, and data analysis regarding crime in Indian country affected by Public Law 280. Recommended priorities for new quantitative research regarding Public Law 280 are presented in the areas of crime rates in Indian country, quality of law enforcement, documentation and evaluation of Federal law enforcement funding and services to tribes, assessment of law enforcement, evaluation of retrocession and concurrent tribal jurisdiction, cooperative agreements, and Federal administrative and legislative responses. References

Date Published: January 1, 1998