House Committee on the Judiciary: Oversight of the Federal Bureau of Investigation
Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey testified on Capitol Hill on Thursday and discussed the agency's Indian Country initiatives in his written statement. Comey, who took office in September 2013, said the FBI shares authority over Indian Country along with the Bureau of Indian Affairs. With nearly five million people living on reservations and tribal lands, jurisdiction is a "complex maze of tribal, state, federal, or concurrent jurisdiction," he told the House Judiciary Committee. "The number of agents, the vast territory, the egregious nature of crime being investigated, and the high frequency of the violent crime handled by these agents makes their responsibility exceedingly arduous," Comey said in his written statement. Two of the FBI's biggest priorities in Indian Country are sexual assault and child sexual assault, Comey said. He repeated well-known statistics that show American Indians and Alaska Natives violent crime at rates higher than any other racial or ethnic group.
FBI Director Comey addresses students and faculty at Georgetown University in February 2015. Photo from FBI
"Approximately 75 percent of all FBI Indian Country investigations concern homicide, crimes against children, or felony assaults," the testimony stated. During an appearance at the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee earlier this month, Comey said he has visited Indian Country a few times, The Lakota Country Times reported. He hasn't been to any reservations in the Great Plains but said he learned about crime problems there not from his agents but from his children. "My children just returned from Red Shirt Table and my two girls said to me, ‘You have got to do something. You wouldn’t believe what it is like,'" said Comey, referring to a community on the Pine Ridge Reservation, home to the Oglala Sioux Tribe. The complete passage from Comey's written testimony follows:
There are 567 federally recognized Indian tribes in the United States, with the FBI and the Bureau of Indian Affairs having concurrent jurisdiction for felony-level crimes on over 200 reservations. According to the 2010 Census, there are nearly five million people living on over 56 million acres of Indian reservations and other tribal lands. Criminal jurisdiction in these areas of our country is a complex maze of tribal, state, federal, or concurrent jurisdiction. The FBI’s Indian Country program currently has 124 special agents in 34 FBI field offices primarily working Indian Country crime matters. The number of agents, the vast territory, the egregious nature of crime being investigated, and the high frequency of the violent crime handled by these agents makes their responsibility exceedingly arduous. The FBI has 14 Safe Trails Task Forces that investigate violent crime, drug offenses, and gangs in Indian Country, and we continue to address the emerging threat from fraud and other white-collar crimes committed against tribal gaming facilities. Sexual assault and child sexual assault are two of the FBI’s investigative priorities in Indian Country. Statistics indicate that American Indians and Alaska Natives suffer violent crime at greater rates than other Americans. Approximately 75 percent of all FBI Indian Country investigations concern homicide, crimes against children, or felony assaults. The FBI continues to work with tribes through the Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010 to help tribal governments better address the unique public safety challenges and disproportionately high rates of violence and victimization in many tribal communities. The act encourages the hiring of additional law enforcement officers for Native American lands, enhances tribal authority to prosecute and punish criminals, and provides the Bureau of Indian Affairs and tribal police officers with greater access to law enforcement databases.
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