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Ideas may change law enforcement in Indian country

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DENVER - Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., and his staff have met with tribal leaders, law enforcement officials, sheriff's associations and prosecutors with the intent of writing legislation that will change the way law enforcement works in Indian country.

The following suggestions are a compilation of ideas from at least three hearings and are subject to change. More hearings will take place, according to Dorgan's staff. A concept paper was developed to begin the conversation and search for more solutions.

*Mandate federal officials to file and maintain data on declination reports.

*Create an office of Indian Country Crime within the Criminal Division and authorize the Department of Justice to appoint tribal prosecutors as special assistants to U.S. Attorneys.

*Elevate and define the role of the Office of Tribal Justice as a resource for tribal leaders.

*Define the role of tribal liaisons at appropriate U.S. attorney's offices.

*Require the DoJ to consult with tribes on the administration of tribal programs.

*Require U.S. attorneys' evaluations to include credit for all Indian country prosecutions, including misdemeanors.

*Enhance coordination between BIA and the Office of Justice Services and tribal law enforcement agencies.

*Clarify that the federal government retains concurrent authority over all Public Law 280 jurisdictions.

*Authorize tribes to adopt resolutions to retrocede jurisdiction back to the federal and tribal governments when states refuse to provide public safety.

*Set minimum resource (funding and personnel) requirements for states that wish to continue to exercise authority over reservation crimes. If states cannot meet the requirements, then authority over reservation crimes should retrocede back to the federal and tribal governments.

*Establish programs that provide incentives to tribes and states to coordinate law enforcement strategies and criminal information.

*Expand on programs to grant special commissions that enable tribal police officers to make arrests for all crimes committed on Indian lands.

*Authorize tribal law enforcement to access national criminal databases.

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*Provide greater flexibility for training of tribal law enforcement officers.

*Establish a federally-chartered tribal law enforcement foundation to support the mission of tribal police departments.

*Reauthorize and amend the Indian Alcohol and Substance Abuse Act.

*Reauthorize the Indian Tribal Justice Support and Technical and Legal Assistance Acts.

*Reauthorize and amend the Tribal Community Oriented Policing Services program within the DoJ to provide for long-term funding.

*Reauthorize and expand on the DoJ Tribal Jails program.

*Authorize the construction of regional detention centers for long-term incarceration where deemed appropriate by a consortium of tribes.

*Authorize the transfer of prisoners convicted of violent crimes in tribal court to federal prisons with placement assurances.

*Authorize and expand on the Native American Probation Office Liaison program.

*Require the BIA, FBI and U.S. attorneys to track crimes committed in Indian country by adding an Indian country category to the Uniform Crime Reports; require the Bureau of Justice Statistics to report to Congress annually.

*Require the BIA, FBI and the BJS to help establish tribal data collection systems.

*Establish or enhance existing DoJ data collection programs for tribes.

*Establish a Congressional Indian Crime Commission to review the tribal criminal justice system and make recommendations for needed reforms.

*Establish a pilot program to enhance tribal court jurisdiction over all domestic and sexual violence crimes committed on Indian lands, regardless of the race of the offender.

*Enhance family violence training for tribal and federal law enforcement.