Senators introduce bill to help boost resources for tribal law enforcement

Baucus, Tester Say Measure Will Help Provide Much-Needed Assistance For Tribal Justice System

(Washington, D.C.) – Montana's U.S. Senators Max Baucus and Jon Tester today introduced legislation that will help boost resources for tribal law enforcement agencies in Montana and across the country so they can do their jobs more effectively and efficiently.

Baucus and Tester today introduced the Tribal Law and Order Act of 2008. This bill renews and authorizes new and increased funding for tribal jails, training for tribal law enforcement officers, and programs for tribal youth.

The senators also included a provision to authorize additional funding for Montana's Blackfeet Tribe, which is on the Northern Border, to address illegal narcotics trafficking along the 65 mile border. Under current law three tribes on the country's Northern or Southern Border are authorized for funding to help fight drug trafficking along the Canadian and Mexico borders. Baucus' and Tester's legislation includes a provision that not only renews the current law but expands it to include the Blackfeet Nation.

"I want to make sure that tribal law enforcement officials have what they need to keep folks safe and do their jobs effectively – and this legislation will help do that," Baucus said. "Jon and I are committed to ensuring that our Tribes have access to the same tools and resources as other folks all over the country."

Tester said he looks forward to working with the chairman and all members of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee to pass the legislation.

"This is a common sense plan for Indian Country, and it's the right thing to do to make sure all Montanans live, work and raise their families in safe communities," Tester said.  "This measure also empowers tribal officers by providing them the tools they need to fight crime and bring justice to all Indian communities."

Baucus' and Tester's Bill:

  • Renews and expands funding authorization under the Department of Justice tribal jails for construction program, providing much-needed funding for construction and maintenance of tribal jails and detention centers.
  • Establishes the Tribal Youth Program to create youth leadership programs, tutoring and remedial education, job training skills, and other activities aimed at reducing delinquency in tribal youth.
  • Requires the Department of Justice to develop specialized family violence training for all law enforcement officers and prosecutors responsible for investigating crimes of sexual violence in Indian Country.
  • Renews and expands the Indian Alcohol and Substance Abuse Act, which provides grants for outreach programs for tribal youth and constructing facilities for youth in tribal custody.  Also, it expands current law to authorize funding for the Blackfeet Tribe to fight drug trafficking on the Northern Border.
  • Requires the Department Of Justice and the Bureau of Indian Affairs to provide coordinated training in Indian country to certify tribal officers.
  • Authorizes grants through the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency to provide assistance to tribal police to address drug trafficking in Indian country.
  • Provides tribal law enforcement broader authority to access and input information into the National Crimes Information Center and similar federal criminal databases.
  • Creates a new office within the Department of Justice to focus on Indian Country crime.
  • Requires the DOJ to report to Congress on declinations for each federal district responsible for prosecuting crimes in Indian Country.
  • Enhances DOJ Tribal Liaisons who serve as primary prosecutors of Indian Country crime and are responsible for developing multi-disciplinary task forces and communicating with tribal leaders and law enforcement officials.
  • Provides grants used to establish Tribal-State Cooperative Agreements.
  • Improves and provides continuity to crime data collection and information sharing in Indian Country.

The senators' legislation will be referred to the Senate Indian Affairs Committee for further action.