Joe Garcia: It's time for action on law enforcement

"Indian country has lived with horrifically high rates of violent crime in our communities for years, and it appears that this reality has finally caught the attention of policy-makers and the public. Much of the momentum on this issue was sparked by the efforts of the Indian women leaders who pushed the tribal amendments to the Violence Against Women Act of 2005. We have also been aided by countless visits by tribal leaders to Washington to raise this issue, federal crime reports that demonstrate the dramatically higher rates of violent crime on Indian reservations, news articles that have highlighted the problems, and most recently the Amnesty International Report, ''Maze of Injustice.''

Recent actions of important members of Congress and the Bush administration suggest that Washington, D.C., is finally listening, and there is a window of opportunity right now to make constructive change. I had the opportunity to testify recently before the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs and made the following four proposals.

First, we need to reaffirm and support tribal government authority to protect their communities. Since the Oliphant decision in 1978, the National Congress of American Indians has urged Congress to reaffirm tribal inherent criminal jurisdiction over all persons within Indian country. NCAI has also long advocated for an amendment to Public Law 280 that would allow tribes to initiate retrocession.

Second, we need to improve and hold accountable the federal law enforcement response at the Department of Justice. The one-two punch of the Major Crimes Act and the sentencing limitations in the Indian Civil Rights Act leave tribes dependent on the DOJ for investigation and prosecution of major felonies on most reservations.

Third, we need to increase cooperation between tribal, state and federal law enforcement. Criminals do not respect jurisdictional boundaries. Law enforcement has been significantly improved where tribal, state and local police work together, but too many local law enforcement agencies are reluctant to work with tribal law enforcement.

Fourth, we need to increase resources for law enforcement. Basic law enforcement protection and services are severely inadequate on Indian reservations. To put it in perspective, Indian country law enforcement officers make up 0.004 percent of all law enforcement officers in the United States, yet they patrol 2 percent of the land of the United States and 1 percent of the population. Funding must be increased and streamlined for police, courts and detention and rehabilitation facilities."

Get the Story:
Joe Garcia: It's time for action (Indian Country Today 9/28)

Committee Notice:
OVERSIGHT HEARING on the prevalence of violence against Indian women (September 27, 2007)

Amnesty International Report:
Full Report | Press Release

Online Discussion:
Violence against Native American and Alaska Native Women (April 24, 2007)

Relevant Links:
Join Voices with Native American and Alaska Native Women and Take Action to Stop the Violence -

Related Stories:
Indian Affairs Committee meeting and hearing (9/27)
Witnesses: Hearing on violence against Native women (9/26)
Senate hearing on violence against Indian women (9/25)
Domestic violence linked to suicides at Rosebud (09/05)
Vigil in Colorado calls attention to domestic violence (8/14)
Opinion: Women and children can't wait for justice (8/3)
NPR: Criminals target a 'lawless' Indian Country (7/27)
Meth and gangs on the rise in Indian Country (7/26)
Native women seek end to domestic violence (07/12)
US Attorney: Criminal injustice in Indian Country (6/25)
Navajo medicine man accused of raping teen girl (05/21)
Nebraska tribes face sexual assault problems (05/21)
Pueblo woman helps police nab sex offender (5/18)
Utne Reader: Finding justice for Native women (5/17)
Deer: Demanding justice for Native women victims (5/4)
Editorial: Better approach to crimes against women (5/3)
Cangleska set to open new shelter at Pine Ridge (5/2)
'No one cares' about violence against Native women (4/30)
Editorial: Injustice for indigenous women (4/27)
Editorial: U.S. fails to protect Native women (4/26)
BIA ties violence against women to meth abuse (4/26)
Violence against Native women a 'national disgrace' (4/25)
Report details 'maze' Native women victims face (4/25)
Amnesty report on violence against Native women (4/24)
Husband of slain Navajo weaver found dead (4/18)
Navajo weaver killed a day before divorce was final (4/12)
Husband suspected in death of Navajo weaver (4/11)
Man acquitted for sexual assault of Native teen (03/27)
Tearful Native teen recalls sexual assault at trial (3/21)
Jodi Rave: Violence against Native women rising (3/12)
'Missing from the Circle' website launches (03/09)
Project seeks to create Indian Country crime database (3/2)
US Attorney: Critic hides contempt for tribes (01/03)
Opinion: Misleading stories on reservation homicide (1/2)
US Attorney: Tribes need more law enforcement (12/04)
Ute Reservation the 'murder capital of Colorado' (11/27)
Report outlines high murder rate of Native women (09/21)
Data shows high rates of Native violence in Farmington (08/31)
Pine Ridge Reservation shelter helps hundreds (08/10)
Walk raises awareness of domestic violence (05/12)
Shakopee Tribe awards anti-domestic violence grant (05/03)
Tribes unite for domestic violence awareness (04/25)
Men sentenced to life in prison for kidnap, rape (01/27)
Domestic violence an epidemic in Indian Country (11/8)
Editorial: Breaking the circle of domestic violence (10/26)
Figures show drop in Indian Country jail population (10/25)
Michigan tribe marches against domestic violence (10/21)
Navajo man leads walk against domestic violence (10/12)
Senate approves violence act with tribal provisions (10/5)
DOJ awards grants for Indian women safety sites (09/22)
Editorial: Protect Native women from domestic violence (09/12)
Domestic violence a problem on Montana reservations (9/9)
Violence Against Women Act set to expire this month (9/6)
Column: Genocide of Indian women continues today (08/15)
Violence Against Women Act includes tribal provisions (06/14)
Study finds high rates of trauma among two tribes (06/01)
Harjo: Native women aren't safe in Indian Country (04/29)
Two charged with rapes on Montana reservation (02/25)
Congress puts focus on Indian Country crime (11/22)
Violent crime on the rise on Navajo Nation (11/02)
Tribal rights recognized in domestic violence bill (10/26)
Alaska wants to reduce tribal powers in child welfare (09/09)
Two grants to combat domestic violence on reservation (09/01)
Justice bill shifts priorities in Indian Country (8/4)
Criminals on Navajo Nation sometimes set free (07/30)
Tribal authority over all Indians still unsettled question (06/23)
Native women in Oklahoma at high risk for violence (05/26)
Federal prosecutor seeks to change 'national shame' (04/19)
IHS compiles domestic violence research (10/29)
Native youth victimization outpaces nation (07/17)
Natives top violent crime list again (4/8)
One in 10 hate crimes target American Indians (10/1)
DOJ: American Indians highest injured (6/25)
DOJ: Violent crime plagues Indian Country (3/19)