Associate Attorney General Tom Perrelli told members of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee Thursday that funding for law enforcement programs in American Indian communities “must be broad and across the board.”
The proposed fiscal 2011 DOJ budget includes nearly $450 million to fund initiatives in American Indian tribal lands. The department received more than $237 million in its fiscal 2010 budget for Indian country prosecutions and criminal investigations. The DOJ also made millions of dollars in grant money available to America Indian tribes, especially for programs that fight violence against women.
“While we will continue to implement changes that do not cost American tax dollars, the reality is that resources make a difference,” Perrelli told the committee. “We are working to put resources in place quickly and efficiently to help American Indian and Alaska Native communities help themselves.” (Read his prepared remarks here.)
Perrelli noted that the DOJ would be able to hire 45 new FBI agents for Indian Country with funds from the requested fiscal year 2011 budget. The proposed budget also would allow the DOJ to support more tribal police and assistant U.S. attorneys in Indian Country, he said.
Panel chairman Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., said at the hearing today that he is pleased to see the proposed increases to address Indian Country public safety.
“Let me say, this committee has fully documented and described at great length the long-standing unmet needs for increased funding in many areas of public policy dealing with American Indians,” Dorgan said.
The DOJ has made American Indian issues a top priority. Over the last year, the department has rolled out a number of new policies and plans to address Indian Country crime, which former Deputy Attorney General David Ogden said last month has hit “unacceptable levels” and is diminishing the quality of life for American Indians.
The department also intends to make the Office of Tribal Justice a separate component within the DOJ. Currently, the office is under the purview of the Deputy Attorney General but is not a permanent entity within the DOJ structure.