WASHINGTON – Attorney General Eric Holder announced Jan. 11 sweeping reforms intended to improve public safety on tribal land. The new directive is part of a larger Justice Department initiative to create better communication and coordination to fight crime and promote justice in Indian country.
“The public safety challenges we face in Indian country will not be solved by a single grant or a single piece of legislation,” Holder said. “There is no quick fix. 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.”
The Attorney General directed all U.S. Attorneys’ Offices with districts containing Indian country (44 out of 93) 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; and 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.
Holder also announced that the Justice Department’s FY 2010 appropriation includes an additional $6 million for Indian country prosecution efforts. At least 35 additional assistant U.S. attorneys and 12 additional FBI victim specialists will be added in offices with an Indian country caseload. These new resources will enable the Justice Department to bring the federal justice system closer to Indian country, including through a Community Prosecution Pilot Project that the Executive Office of U.S. Attorneys is currently developing.
The announcement came out of the recommendations that had been gathered by department leadership as part of a larger department-wide initiative on public safety in tribal communities. As part of this effort, Deputy Attorney General David W. Ogden and Associate Attorney General Tom Perrelli conducted a series of meetings addressing violent crime in Indian country.
On Oct. 28 – 29, Holder convened a national tribal leaders listening session in St. Paul, Minn. Also in October, the Justice Department held its annual tribal consultation on violence against women, as required by the Violence Against Women Act of 2005. The department again had the opportunity to engage with tribal leaders on public safety in tribal communities during the White House Tribal Nations Conference in November 2009. In addition to these sessions with tribal leaders, department leadership has conducted meetings with Indian country experts on law enforcement and public
The districts include: District of Alaska; Southern District of Alabama; District of Arizona; Central District of California; Eastern District of California; Northern District of California; Southern District of California; District of Colorado; District of Connecticut; Southern District of Florida; District of Idaho; Northern District of Iowa; District of Kansas; Western District of Louisiana; District of Maine; District of Massachusetts; Eastern District of Michigan; Western District of Michigan; District of Minnesota; Southern District of Mississippi; District of Montana; District of Nebraska; District of Nevada; District of New Mexico; Eastern District of New York (anticipating federal recognition of the Shinnecock Nation); Northern District of New York; Western District of New York; Western District of North Carolina; District of North Dakota; Eastern District of Oklahoma; Northern District of Oklahoma; Western District of Oklahoma; District of Oregon; District of Rhode Island; District of South Carolina; District of South Dakota; Eastern District of Texas; Western District of Texas; District of Utah; Eastern District of Washington; Western District of Washington; Eastern District of Wisconsin; Western District of Wisconsin; and the District of Wyoming.
A copy of the guidelines, in a memo from Ogden to the relevant U.S. attorneys, can be found online.