Tester, Hoeven Introduce Bill to Recruit, Retain Tribal Law Enforcement

Senators’ Strengthening Tribal Law Enforcement Act to establish higher rates of pay for Bureau of Indian Affairs Officers

Facing a public safety crisis in Indian Country, U.S. Senators Jon Tester (D-Mont) and John Hoeven (R-N.D) today introduced legislation to recruit and retain tribal law enforcement by increasing the pay rates for Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) Officers.

“I’ll work with anyone to ensure that folks in Indian Country have the resources they need to keep their communities safe,” said Tester. “As we continue our fight against violent crimes and drug trafficking, it’s critical that the Bureau of Indian Affairs has boots on the ground to hold criminals accountable, and our bipartisan bill will make that happen. I look forward to working with the Tribes to pass this legislation, and together we’ll create a safer Montana for all.”

Tester’s Strengthening Tribal Law Enforcement Act authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to establish higher minimum rates of pay for BIA positions that require specialty in law enforcement and/or detention and corrections. Currently the BIA faces an officer shortage, and according to Tribes in Montana, a lack of BIA law enforcement presence has contributed to a disproportionately high rate of violent crimes in Indian County – more than 2.5 times the national average. Increasing officer pay will help recruit and retain officers on rural reservations like Northern Cheyanne in Montana, where there are often only two police officers on duty to patrol 440,000 acres of land.

“We support Senator Tester’s Strengthening Tribal Law Enforcement Act which will raise pay for BIA officers and help with recruitment and retention efforts,” said Northern Cheyenne President Serena Wetherelt. “Because we live in a rural area, the BIA cannot retain or hire the number of officers that are needed because of insufficient rates of pay. The Northern Cheyenne Tribe supports this bill so that interested applicants will get a higher rate of pay and spark interest for a larger applicant pool to come to work in our rural area.”

“We commend Senators Jon Tester and John Hoeven for introducing the Strengthening Tribal Law Enforcement Act,” said National Native American Law Enforcement Association CEO Gary Edwards. “This bill is critical in ensuring that the Bureau of Indian Affairs is able to recruit and retain quality law enforcement officers and get much needed boots on the ground in Native communities. The National Native American Law Enforcement Association thanks Senator Tester and Hoeven for their leadership in identifying solutions to improve public safety in Indian Country. We are proud to endorse this bipartisan legislation.”

As the former Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, Tester has consistently fought to provide Tribal governments and organizations with the resources they need to reduce crime and tackle the MMIP epidemic. He led the Senate passage of Savanna’s Act and the Not Invisible Act, both of which were signed into law in October of 2020, improving information sharing and collaboration between Tribal and federal law enforcement agencies, and he has secured millions to enhance law enforcement, improve public safety, and support victims in Indian Country.

As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Tester is a tireless advocate for increasing funding for police and making sure Tribal law enforcement officers have the resources they need to keep communities safe. He recently secured more than $1 billion in critical funding for Tribal, local, state, and federal law enforcement and public safety programs in the 2023 government funding bill. Tester was the only member of the Montana delegation to support the bill.


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