Tribal Law Enforcement Understaffed, Underfunded

Published: Thursday, March 7, 2019 - 4:38pm
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Laurel Morales/KJZZ
Navajo Nation police Officer Donald Seimy says the tribe needs more officers.

The Navajo, Hopi and San Carlos Apache tribal leaders all asked the panel for funding to hire more officers and build better public safety facilities. Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez asked for $74 million for his tribe alone — the largest in the country.

"And that's just the bare minimum," Nez said. "Throughout Indian Country we're talking about into the hundreds of millions of dollars maybe even the billions of dollars."

On vast, isolated reservations officers often must respond to calls alone without backup. On the Hopi Nation there's frequently only one officer on duty at night to cover an area the size of Delaware.

Recently federal agents assisted San Carlos Apache tribal officers on calls during a nine-day crack down on opiates. Chairman Terry Rambler said his police officers are overburdened with drug-related calls.

"(One federal agent said) his squad of 29 is doing the work of 100 officers," Rambler said. "Lack of staffing is only part of the problem. Their jobs are nearly impossible due to the lack of a functioning facility."

Rambler urged the panel to provide allocated funding to replace facilities condemned over a decade ago and increase funding to hire more officers.

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