April 06, 2020

Spending targets reservation crimes

WASHINGTON — With crime rates soaring on reservations, the Clinton administration is proposing a 140 percent increase in spending for Indian law enforcement.

If Congress approves, federal spending for new jails, hiring hundreds of police officers and prosecutors and other law enforcement efforts would jump from $130 million this year to $312 million in fiscal 1999, with higher amounts in later years.

President Clinton is not releasing his 1999 budget until next week, but the Indian law enforcement recommendations are contained in a Jan. 20 letter to the White House from Attorney General Janet Reno and Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt. A copy of the letter was obtained by The Associated Press.

Reno and Babbitt recommended that the Interior Department’s Bureau of Indian Affairs remain in charge of law enforcement on reservations, but most of the $182 million increase would be channeled through the Justice Department. Justice officials had proposed to take over the BIA’s police functions, but tribes were sharply divided over the plan.

Reservation law enforcement “often fails to meet basic public safety needs” at a time when “serious and violent crime is rising significantly,” the letter said.

The homicide rate on Indian lands soared 87 percent over the past five years, even as it dropped 22 percent nationwide.

There are 1,600 BIA and tribal officers patrolling 56 million acres of Indian land, or 1.3 officers for every 1,000 residents, compared with 2.9 police officers per 1,000 residents in rural non-Indian communities.

The increase includes $54 million in grants to tribes to hire approximately 500 police officers, $52 million for construction of jails and $25 million for the BIA to hire additional investigators.

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