The issue of crime and justice in Indian country is a priority for the President, the Attorney General, and the COPS Office. The rate of violent crime in Indian country is two and a half times the national average and can be up to 10 times that average in some cases. A female baby born in Indian country today has a 1 in 3 chance of being sexually assaulted in her lifetime.
The term Indian country refers not just to traditional reservations, but also land held by all federally recognized tribes (564) as well as registered members of such tribes. The jurisdictional issues associated with dealing with criminal activity in Indian country are as diverse as they are complex.
It is extraordinarily difficult for our tribal partners to deal with this level of criminal activity. Their funding is often limited, their staffing is often inadequate, and the geographic scope of their duties is unimaginable by modern municipal standards. For example, there are reservations the size of the state of Delaware that often only have one or two officers on duty. These financial and logistical challenges combined with historical factors present significant barriers to providing an effective public safety presence in Indian country.
The President directed every federal Department to develop an action plan for providing appropriate assistance to the tribal communities of this nation. The COPS Office has a significant role to play in the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) action plan, and has been working closely with the other DOJ grant making components (the Office of Justice Programs, and the Office of Violence Against Women) to develop a coordinated grant solicitation for Tribal specific grant programs, appropriately titled the Coordinated Tribal Assistance Solicitation (CTAS). This coordinated effort is DOJ’s first step toward streamlining the grant making process for Indian country and outlines all of the new Tribal-specific grant offerings in one application. It is hoped that it will make comprehensive planning for tribes’ overall justice system needs more attainable and thereby increase the sustainability of those systems.
The development of CTAS is a result of the efforts of many staff from throughout the Department of Justice’s grant making components and is an excellent example of the power of collaborative partnerships. Those partnerships will continue to play a significant role throughout the award process as they will be working toward a more effective coordination of grant awards as well. The CTAS is currently open and will close on May 13. For more information, please visit www.tribaljusticeandsafety.gov.
In addition, the COPS Office is aggressively working to foster partnerships between tribal police agencies and their local police and sheriff’s agencies. This process will not be easy, but we are uniquely positioned to provide critical assistance that will further the partnership process.
In terms of bettering the lives of everyone in this country, cops count and so does the COPS Office. Thanks for being part of the process of making a difference.