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DOJ issues directive prioritizing addressing violent crime in Indian country

Blackfeet Reservation
Posted at 11:02 AM, Jul 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-15 13:02:55-04

HELENA — The U.S. Department of Justice has issued a directive prioritizing addressing violent crime in Indian Country. Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco made the announcement Thursday at the Trilateral Working Group on Violence Against Indigenous Women and Girls.

“With this memorandum, we are reaffirming the department’s unwavering commitment to promoting public safety in Indian Country and to respecting Tribal sovereignty,” said Monaco. “Tribes know best how to make their communities safer, and Tribal engagement has thus been the cornerstone of the department’s review of its policies and procedures. Federal law enforcement agencies will continue to work diligently with our Tribal partners in support of public safety in Indian Country.”

In the memorandum, Monaco declared it a priority of the DOJ to address the “disproportionately high rates of violence experienced by American Indians and Alaska Natives, and relatedly, the high rates of indigenous persons reported missing.” The memorandum directs each U.S. Attorney — along with their law enforcement partners at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the FBI and the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS) — to update and develop new plans for addressing public safety in Indian country.

Thursday’s memorandum marks the first guidance from the Deputy Attorney General to U.S. Attorneys in Indian Country since 2010. The last memorandum was from then-Deputy Attorney General David Ogden which required each U.S. Attorney with Indian country jurisdiction to establish a structure and plan for addressing public safety.

Monaco’s memorandum accounts for significant legal and legislative developments in the intervening decade, including the Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010, Savanna’s Act, the Not Invisible Act of 2019 and the 2013 and 2022 reauthorizations of the Violence Against Women Act. It also recognizes that the department’s law enforcement components are essential to investigating crimes in Indian country.

Specifically, the memorandum instructs department prosecutors and law enforcement officers to update their operational plans, policies, and protocols to:

  • Coordinate with Tribal, State and local law enforcement officers, as well as other federal agencies;
  • Support victims, survivors and their families in a victim-centered and culturally-appropriate manner; and
  • Address cases, including unresolved cases, involving missing or murdered indigenous people.

The memorandum also directs U.S. Attorneys' Offices and law enforcement agencies to engage with Tribes to better address priority public safety issues, including combatting violence against women, youth and children and addressing the devastating consequences of drug trafficking and substance use disorder in Indian country.