August 17, 2007

Senate Indian Affairs Committee Chair Dorgan Asks for Meeting with U.S. Attorney General Gonzales on Law Enforcement “Crisis” in Indian Country

U.S. Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND), Chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, is requesting a meeting with Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to discuss what Dorgan describes as a law enforcement “crisis” on the nation’s Indian reservations.
Dorgan said he will ask several Indian leaders to join him in meeting with the Attorney General.
There is a growing and serious law enforcement crisis on Indian reservations in a variety of areas, but particularly regarding the violent victimization of Native American women, Dorgan wrote in his letter to Gonzales requesting the meeting. “Amnesty International recently released a report which concluded that one in three Native American women will be raped in their life time,”
The high occurrence of rape reported by Amnesty International “is not news,” Dorgan wrote. “Your Department reported these very statistics a decade ago.”
The Department of Justice is one of two federal departments with responsibility – and resources – for providing law enforcement on Indian lands. The Interior Department’s Bureau of Indian Affairs is the other.
Dorgan noted that a chronic lack of law enforcement officers and modern law enforcement communication technologies on Indian lands fuel the problem. He said the Indian Affairs Committee has received testimony that on one reservation, one person patrols an area the size of Rhode Island. Other testimony received by the committee indicates that on other Indian reservations, due to distance and the lack of adequate law enforcement communications equipment, people routinely wait an hour or more before getting a response to an emergency call for help.
“I want to make the point directly to the Attorney General, that we can no longer put off dealing with this crisis,” Dorgan said Friday. “Tribal law enforcement offices are chronically under-funded. Federal law enforcement officials are spread far too thin. I want to make that point, directly, to the Attorney General, and for him to hear directly from Indian leaders what is happening. He needs to be part of the solution.”
Dorgan noted there are fewer than 2,000 federal and tribal law enforcement officers who patrol more than 56 million acres of tribal lands in 35 states.
“The United States has a legal obligation to provide public safety in Indian country. Sadly, we are not meeting this obligation,” he wrote in the letter to Gonzales.
Letter to Attorney General Gonzales