Tester Urges Senate Colleagues to Better Support Tribal Law Enforcement

Senators in letter to colleagues: “Tribal communities are experiencing a major uptick in violent and drug-related crime that can only be described as a crisis”

As part of his continued push to address the public safety crisis facing Indian Country, U.S. Senator Jon Tester led a bipartisan letter to his colleagues charged with funding public safety initiatives in Indian Country, urging them to support robust funding for Tribal law enforcement in upcoming appropriations.

“As you know, Tribal communities are experiencing a major uptick in violent and drug-related crime that can only be described as a crisis. According to leadership at the Department of the Interior, recent data indicates some Tribes have experienced violent crime rates five times higher than the U.S. national average,” wrote the Senators.

The Senators specifically stressed the consequences of Tribal law enforcement agencies being under-resourced and under-staffed: “On numerous reservations, only a handful of officers are tasked with patrolling millions of acres. Criminal entities, including Mexican drug cartels, are taking note of the lack of manpower and are directly targeting reservation communities. As a result, Tribal law enforcement officers are encountering higher volumes of illegal drugs, including fentanyl.”

The Senators concluded their letter by calling on their colleagues to make funding for Tribal law enforcement a priority in upcoming appropriations: “Robust funding for BIA Public Safety and Justice Law Enforcement programs will help address the public safety crisis and improve law enforcement services in reservation communities.”

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. In March, Tester urged Attorney General Merrick Garland to use full force of the Department of Justice to combat the growing cartel presence and fentanyl trafficking in Tribal communities. 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.

Tester’s letter to Senators Merkley and Murkowski can be read HERE.