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Victim Services in Rural Law Enforcement
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NSA Sites

Washington: Port Gamble S'Klallam Tribal Police Department

The federally recognized Port Gamble S'Klallam Tribal Reservation is located on 1,301 acres near the town of Kingston in Kitsap County, Washington. There is no individual or private ownership of land on the reservation. Over 40 percent of this rural land is forested. Bremerton is a 1-hour drive, and Seattle is a 2- to 3-hour drive. The reservation has a population of 1,100—935 of whom are enrolled tribal members. The tribe is one of three bands of Pacific Northwest Native American S'Klallam. It is governed by a six-member Tribal Council. Major employers for tribal members include tribal government, individual treaty fishing enterprises, gaming, and local area businesses. The Port Gamble S'Klallam Tribal Police Department has a chief, a lieutenant, four officers, and three reserve officers.

Through the OVC grant, the Port Gamble S'Klallam Tribal Police Department created a Crime Victim Advocate Program to provide culturally sensitive support and services to crime victims. Prior to the grant project, no formalized system of victim assistance existed within the tribe. Because the police department had experienced an increase in violations involving domestic violence over recent years, the program focused on victims of domestic and sexual violence.

An advocate position was created to coordinate the program, with an office in the Tribal Wellness Program building. A Crime Victims' Task Force was formed and met monthly to advise the program. The police chief and advocate were cochairs. Tribal entities participating on the task force included the police department, mental health program, health department, health clinic, court, social services, tribal council, and Indian child welfare. Numerous tribal residents were members. Nontribal partners included the Kitsap County Sheriff's Office and multiple county programs.

With the advocate hired and the task force established, a needs assessment was completed to identify existing resources and gaps in victim services. One challenge identified was the fact that tribal criminal court sessions were only held once or twice a month because the prosecuting attorney and judge were shared with a tribal court consortium. There were numerous case continuances, lengthening case prosecution for months at a time and creating frustration for victims.

The advocate worked with the tribal police department and tribal court to develop and implement protocols that promoted timely victim referrals to the advocate program by police officers and advocate followup with victims within 72 hours after initial police response (e.g., officers were instructed to give the advocate a copy of a triplicate form they fill out for each complaint). The advocate created a victims' rights packet for officers to give to victims. She also began to attend all tribal court hearings to provide support to victims. A data collection and confidential filing system was developed to track referrals, services, and related statistics. In the second and third years of the grant, the advocate assisted 69 victims. One barrier to delivering comprehensive victim services was that when the advocate was not on duty, mental health counselors were available only to provide backup phone counseling and referrals, not onsite assistance.

The advocate worked to increase community awareness of victimization issues. She developed and disseminated a program brochure to tribal agencies and the community. She wrote articles and provided program information for the monthly tribal newsletter. She promoted the program at tribal conferences, parent retreats, youth camps, and community fairs. Training on the program was developed and delivered to tribal agency staff, with ongoing training for police department personnel on interdepartmental procedures, victims' rights, and victim services. The advocate also sought to increase her program's collaboration with tribal and off-reservation agencies in responding to crime victims. For example, the advocate—

  • Coordinated with Tribal Mental Health to provide a therapist for crime victims.
  • Developed a relationship with the State Crime Victims' Compensation Program to refer eligible tribal crime victims.
  • Worked to determine the availability of shelters and safe houses in north Kitsap County for domestic violence victims from the reservation and collaborated with county and regional agencies to assist in the referral process and support victims.
  • Coordinated with the county to develop and implement cross-jurisdictional protocols for enforcement of protection orders between the tribe and Kitsap County.
  • Cofacilitated a weekly support group for victims of crimes against women—averaging five to six victims per session.
  • Helped coordinate and host two statewide intertribal workshops on sexual assault.
  • Developed relationships with the Harrison Hospital sexual assault nursing team and social work department and the Kitsap County Sexual Assault Center—which led to the advocate being contacted for assistance when Native American victims presented at their agencies.

The tribe committed to sustaining the program for at least 2 years beyond the grant period, including the 75-percent advocate position and monthly task force meetings. It planned to continue public education, training for tribal staff, and finalization of law enforcement protocols for responding to crimes, particularly sexual assault and stalking.