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Lamar Associates: Preparing for tomorrow, protecting today

Lamar Associates has found solutions to gang problems by focusing on community-based coalitions and working with police, schools, health agencies and tribal leadership after they have assessed the level of gang activity and related social problems. The company has provided training to more than 50 tribal entities throughout the country through on-site courses in tribal communities offered as one, two and three-day sessions. They also customize online training courses that are cost-effective for reaching entire programs and individual learners. All courses are tailored to meet the needs of tribal clients.

When Walter Lamar was growing up on the reservation, the definition of a gang was a group of boys hanging out in the same T-shirts, banding together for adventure and a sense of belonging.

Things have changed dramatically in the last 20 years, as organized gangs have infiltrated Indian country and created a new culture of violence and drug-related crimes, said Lamar, a citizen of the Blackfeet Nation who spent 25 years in law enforcement before founding his own company, Lamar Associates.

The melding of gang culture with Native identity has created a hybrid breed of Indians whose loyalties to gangs often trump traditional family ties.

Following a slight drop in growth two years ago, the spread of gangs is once again on the upswing in many urban and rural reservations, as police and community leaders continue to search for solutions.

The Navajo Nation recently estimated the presence of as many as 225 gangs – a 75 percent increase over a decade – ranging from novice gangs to branches of the Crips, Bloods, 51s and influence from Mexican drug cartels.

Reservation gang violence tends to be more extreme in urban settings, like the Gila River Indian Community, which is adjacent to the cities of Phoenix, Tempe, Mesa and Chandler in Arizona, and close to the Mexican border.

“We’re dealing with drive-by shootings, kidnappings, stabbings and home invasions where there’s a knock on the door and then an AK-47 is spraying someone’s living room,” said Rey Nejo, Gila River Indian Community chief of police. “There’s a lot of violence tied to drug sales, and with the profits from drugs, they buy more guns. It’s a vicious cycle.”

Ironically, both Lamar and Nejo say it is impossible to “arrest our way out of the problem,” since tribal police departments are plagued by shortages of funding and manpower, and hampered by jurisdictional limitations preventing them from prosecuting non-Indians.

“Sometimes all we can do is escort criminals to the reservation border,” said Nejo, “but we know we’ll see them back in a few weeks.”

Lamar said solutions can be found by community-based coalitions working with police, schools, health agencies and tribal leadership after they have assessed the level of gang activity and related social problems.

What is clear is that the gang element is flourishing and Indian communities are facing new social problems associated with gang behavior.

“Ten years ago, I conducted one of the first national gang assessments in Indian country to help tribal law enforcement respond to gang activity and to bridge the communication divide between federal, state and tribal agencies,” said Steve Juneau, vice president and director of training for Lamar Associates.

“Today, we’re witnessing the rise of gangs connected to national drug trafficking organizations who profit from the high addiction rates in our tribal communities.”

Juneau cited the 2009 National Gang Threat Assessment’s findings that the main source of income for Native gangs is the sale and distribution of illegal drugs, with some members employed by or working with Mexican drug cartels.

Over the course of his 20-year public safety career, he’s trained more than 3,000 police officers and developed national gang curriculum in an effort to help local communities find solutions.

His partnership with Lamar and Ray Perales, the company’s director of Juvenile Justice Services, is founded on the belief that they can help protect communities today by preparing for tomorrow.

Lamar Associates trains police departments, communities, schools and other agencies about gang awareness and prevention, drug abuse prevention (including prescription drug abuse), safe-school planning, tribal housing security, emergency preparedness, and an array of other topics aimed at making Indian communities safer.

They have provided training to more than 50 tribal entities throughout the country through on-site courses in tribal communities offered as one, two and three-day sessions. They also customize online training courses that are cost-effective for reaching entire programs and individual learners. All courses are tailored to meet the needs of tribal clients.

“Tribes can save as much as 50 to 70 percent on training costs compared to traditional methods of classroom training which requires travel, hotels, per diem, and staff time away from the job,” Lamar said. “As a bonus, our courses are approved for in-service training credits from the BIA Indian Police Academy.”

Collectively, Lamar Associates, a 100 percent Native-owned firm, has more than 60 years of law enforcement and training experience with some impressive players at the helm.

Though he downplays it, Lamar is an 18-year FBI veteran whose career spanned investigations on the Green River serial killer – responsible for the deaths of at least 48 women in the Pacific Northwest – and the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City, where his efforts earned him the prestigious FBI Shield of Bravery – twice.

Lamar is only one of two agents in the history of the FBI to be awarded with a second Shield of Bravery for his actions under fire when he engaged in a running gun battle with a fugitive.

He was on the SWAT team sent to the Branch Davidian standoff in Waco, Texas, and was later called to Washington, D.C. after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks where he helped develop protection protocols for the nation’s dams and monuments.

He was later recruited to be deputy director of BIA law enforcement, where he oversaw restructuring of the program.

A life spent investigating violent crimes, bank robberies, kidnappings, extortion, illegal manufacturing and sales of drugs, organized crime and criminal gang activity served him well when he decided to establish a business after retiring from federal service.

The company’s vice president, Juneau, is a nationally recognized trainer in law enforcement who was commander of two regional law enforcement districts encompassing Montana, Wyoming, Oregon, Idaho, Washington, Alaska, Arizona, Utah, Nevada and California.

Juneau is a Tlingit/Haida tribal member and an Army veteran who graduated from the FBI Academy and started his career as a tribal police officer before becoming a special agent and later deputy chief of training at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Artesia, N.M.

He developed the BIA’s first crime prevention initiative working with government agencies and private sector organizations to combat crime, and created the first statistical crime fighting model for Indian country. He is a strong advocate of transparent community policing and partnerships that embrace education and prevention.

The addition of a Juvenile Justice division, led by Perales, caters to the reality that many crimes are committed by juveniles who are treated differently under the law, and through intervention programs. Perales has worked as chief of police, public safety director and head of Juvenile Services for the Fort Peck tribes, where he supervised adult and juvenile correctional facilities. In his 23 years in criminal justice, he also consulted for the Drug Enforcement Administration, the National Tribal Drug Court and the National Judicial College.

In addition to its Juvenile Justice services, the firm offers training in methamphetamine response and investigation, prescription drug abuse, intelligence-led policing, community-oriented policing, proactive tribal law enforcement, and gangs in Indian country.

Lamar Associates has offices in Albuquerque, N.M., Washington, D.C., Portland, Ore. and Billings, Mont. They work on an individual basis with clients to ensure high quality customer service, and employ a team of seasoned law enforcement professionals.

For more information call (202) 543-8181 or e-mail info@lamarassociates.net. The firm’s Web site features a complete list of training courses.