The Justice Department will implement new policies in American Indian tribal lands in an effort to combat the high level of crime there, Attorney General Eric Holder announced today.
According to a DOJ news release, the Attorney General ordered the 44 U.S. Attorneys who serve in districts that have tribal lands to:
- “meet and consult with tribes in their district annually.”
- “develop an operational plan addressing public safety in Indian Country”
- “work closely with law enforcement to pay particular attention to violence against women in Indian Country and make these crimes a priority.”
- “to provide summaries of their operational plans to the Office of the Deputy Attorney General and make those summaries available to the tribes in their districts.”
The DOJ received more than $237 million in its fiscal year 2010 budget for Indian Country prosecutions and criminal investigations, according to a DOJ spokesperson. The Justice Department will use $6 million of the funds to hire at least 35 Assistant U.S. Attorneys and 12 FBI victim specialists to handle American Indian cases, according to the news release.
“The public safety challenges we face in Indian Country will not be solved by a single grant or a single piece of legislation. There is no quick fix,” Holder said in a statement. “While today’s directive is significant progress, we need to continue our efforts with federal, state and tribal partners to identify solutions to the challenges we face, and work to implement them.”
Top DOJ officials including Holder, Deputy Attorney General David Ogden and Associate Attorney General Tom Perrelli met with American Indian leaders during a listening tour last year. Ogden said in a memo to the U.S. Attorneys that crime in tribal lands has hit “unacceptable levels” and is diminishing the quality of life in Indian Country.
“The Attorney General is depending upon you, as leaders of the Justice Department in your respective districts, to craft individual tribal assessments and action plans that respond to the unique challenges facing tribal communities in your district,” Ogden said in the memo.
South Dakota U.S. Attorney Brendan Johnson, who chairs an American Indian issues subcommittee of the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee of U.S. Attorneys, told Main Justice that the policies are an “important step” toward improving the Justice Department’s relationship with tribes. He said he will hold a listening session in February with his state’s tribes, with an eye toward developing a plan for reducing Indian Country crime in his district.