Funding for Law Enforcement In Indian Country


 Although federal funding for Indian programs has increased significantly over the
last 10 years, this has “not been nearly enough to compensate for a decline in spending
power, which had been evident for decades before that, nor to overcome a long and sad
history of neglect and discrimination.”30 The Congressional Research Service found that,
between 1975 and 2000, funding for BIA and Office of the Special Trustee declined by
$6 million yearly when adjusted for inflation.31 Similarly while the Department of
Justice increased funding for tribal law enforcement by almost 85% between 1998 and
26 Id. at 19.
27 Id. at 15.
28 Bureau of Justice Statistics. Jails in Indian Country, 2001, 2 (2002).
29 Wakeling, supra note 8, at 18. See also Douglas M. Skoog, “Taking Control: Native Self-Government
and Native Policing” in Marianne O. Nielsen & Robert A. Silverman, eds., Native Americans, Crime, and
Justice 130 (Westview Press, 1996) (suggesting that the introduction of community-controlled policing on
reservations may cause an increase in the number of crimes detected and the number of arrests made
because of increased community confidence in the police).

 30 United States Commission on Civil Rights. A Quiet Crisis: Federal Funding and Unmet Needs in Indian
Country, ix (2003).
31 Id.
This document is a research report submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice. This report has not
been published by the Department. Opinions or points of view expressed are those of the author(s)
and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.
2003, “the amount allocated was so small to begin with that its proportion to the
department’s total budget hardly changed.”32
Most but not all studies of Indian country policing suggest that significantly fewer
resources are devoted to Indian country law enforcement than for policing of offreservation jurisdictions.

 The Report of the (Joint Justice and Interior Departments’)
Executive Committee for Indian Country Law Enforcement Improvements states that
there is a “chronic shortage of personnel” in tribal police agencies, estimating that the
overall police-population ration in Indian country is half the ratio for non-Indian
communities.33 Wakeling et al.’s survey of Indian country police departments, which
excluded tribes subject to state jurisdiction under Public Law 280,34 indicates that tribal
communities have only 55 to 80% of the policing resources available to relevant nonIndian communities.35 Tribes spend an average of $83 on public safety per resident
compared to $104 for comparable communities, have operating expenditures of $36,000
per officer compared with $43,400 elsewhere, and have a ratio of 1.3 officers per 1,000
residents compared to 1.8-2.0 for comparable rural areas.36 Wakeling further suggests
that the actual resource differential is much greater than these reported differences
because, given the high crime rate in Indian country, a more suitable comparison is to
large urban areas with high crime rates. However, Luna-Firebaugh and Walker’s survey
of tribal police agencies suggests more satisfactory levels of funding and other support.
Of 31 agencies that provided them with usable data on reservation population,37 twothirds had police-population rations either higher or considerably higher than equivalent
non-Indian communities.38 Luna-Firebaugh and Walker acknowledge that these ratios do
not take into account the geographic size of the community or the availability of
resources, such as 911 systems and police vehicles, that may determine whether officers
can provide effective services to the community.
32 Id. at xi.
33 Executive Committee for Indian Country Law Enforcement Improvements, supra note 17, at 6.
34 Wakeling, supra note 8, at 3 n.3.
35 Id. at 27.
36 Id. at 26-27. A recent “Gap Analysis” undertaken by the BIA for non-Public Law 280 reservations
indicates that fewer than half of BIA-funded law enforcement agencies are staffed at the level of the
national average of 2.6 officers per 100,000 inhabitants in non -metropolitan communities. Statement of
Patrick Ragsdale, Director of the BIA, before the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs,

 Oversight Hearing
on Indian Country Law Enforcement, May 17, 2007, available at
Ragsdale051707.pdf (last visited October 22, 2007).
37 It’s impossible to determine from their paper how many tribes affected by Public Law 280 were included
in their study.
38 Eileen Luna-Firebaugh & Samuel Walker, “Law Enforcement and the American Indian: Challenges/
Obstacles to Effective Law Enforcement,” in Jeffrey Ian Ross and Larry Gould, eds., Native Americans and
the Criminal Justice System 117-134 (Paradigm Publishers 2006).________________________.
This document is a research report submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice. This report has not
been published by the Department. Opinions or points of view expressed are those of the author(s)
and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.
Carole Goldberg and Duane Champagne’s report to the Advisory Council on
California Indian Policy, entitled “A Second Century of Dishonor: Federal Inequities and
California Tribes,”39 documents that tribes in Public Law 280 states, particularly
California, received considerably less in law enforcement support from the Bureau of
Indian Affairs than their counterparts in non-Public Law 280 jurisdictions. Public Law
280 was often offered as the reason federal funding was denied to Public Law 280 tribes,
even though legal opinions within the U.S. government, as well as court decisions,
affirmed that Indian nations retain concurrent criminal jurisdiction under Public Law

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