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Deputy Attorney General David W. Ogden Speaks at the Tulalip Reservation
Seattle, Wash. ~ Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Thank you Chairman Sheldon for the warm introduction and for welcoming us to the Tulalip Reservation today. We’ve spent the morning meeting with Tribal leaders and law enforcement professionals of the Tulalip Tribes, and I am tremendously impressed with the Tribal law enforcement and justice institutions that we visited. With very limited resources, the Tulalip Tribes are doing so much. I also want to thank the Director of the Executive Office of U.S. Attorneys, Marshall Jarrett, the Tribal Liaison for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington, Tate London, and Catherine Connelly of the Federal Bureau of Investigation for joining us here today, and for your commitment to these issues.

It is a personal pleasure to be back in Indian Country. Criminal justice in Indian Country has been a long-time focus for me. Both the Associate Attorney General and I were very involved in Indian Country law enforcement initiatives in our previous roles in the Reno Justice Department. We participated in meetings and listening sessions with Tribal leaders, and what we heard and learned helped frame priorities and initiatives that we believed in and worked hard to implement.

Returning a decade later to the Department, I see how much remains to be done. Public safety in Indian Country requires our urgent attention. Violent crime in much of Indian Country is staggering, and its effect on the everyday lives of tribal communities is unacceptable. Our Tribal Nations face enormous law enforcement challenges, particularly with respect to violent crime, violence against women and crimes against children. While Tribal Nations accomplish a tremendous amount with the resources they have, those resources are wholly inadequate to the serious criminal justice problems they face each day.

The Department of Justice has a fundamental responsibility to improve public safety in Tribal communities. We have a legal duty to prosecute violent crime in Indian Country. This is because in much of Indian Country -- under current law -- we alone have the authority to prosecute serious violent crime to the full extent of the law. Our role as the primary prosecutor for serious violent crime makes our responsibility to our citizens in Indian Country unique.

We also have a trust responsibility to support the tribal law enforcement and justice institutions so critical to tribal sovereignty, and to build relations with our Tribal Nations on a true government-to-government basis. We have a duty to improve communication with our tribal partners and to strengthen the bonds between our institutions.

This is a simple question of meeting our responsibilities as a government, and it’s critical to the basic quality of life for those in Indian Country. Under the leadership of Attorney General Holder, the Department of Justice vigorously embraces this important role. We are dedicated to working closely with our Tribal partners, on a true government-to-government basis, to develop a comprehensive approach to improving law enforcement in Indian Country.

 

To accomplish these goals, we’ve launched a Department-wide initiative on criminal justice in Indian Country. To do this right, we must first listen and learn from our Tribal leaders and Tribal law enforcement experts. We have spent the past couple of days meeting with leaders in the tribal community, including tribal law enforcement officials, judges and prosecutors, to gather their insights. And they have already taught us so much. We will continue the conversation next month in Albuquerque.

This is only the beginning. Culminating these working sessions, the Department of Justice is inviting leaders from all federally recognized tribes to a Tribal Nations Listening Conference this October in Minnesota. We want to engage substantively with our Tribal leaders, to learn from their experiences, to listen to their insights, and to develop concrete initiatives that can make a real difference in the lives of Native Americans.

It’s a privilege to lead this initiative for the Department of Justice. You have my commitment that we will work together to strengthen the bonds between our institutions, and to build a partnership that will make a difference.

To demonstrate our commitment to improving law enforcement in Indian Country, we announce today grants for tribal communities in the State of Washington: first, we announce more than $2 million in funds for critical violence against women programs. The Associate Attorney General, Tom Perrelli, will provide details about those grants in a moment.

Another way that the Administration helps support law enforcement is through the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services – or COPS. This program, which has been dramatically underfunded in the past several years, is receiving strong support and a very large boost to ensure that there are more cops on the beat with the equipment and resources they need to protect public safety. I see several officers here today, and I want to commend you, and the other brave men and women dedicated to tribal law enforcement, for your sacrifices in keeping your reservation safe. We honor your service.

Therefore, in addition to the Violence Against Women grants Tom will discuss shortly, I'm pleased to announce that COPS has awarded more than $1.3 million to six reservations in Washington to hire seven new officers. This includes $423,170 for two officers for the Tulalip Tribes of Washington. These critical funds will support efforts by tribal police to reduce crime, and to enhance law enforcement services and community policing initiatives. The funds will support the cost of the new officers for three years. Washington State Indian Country has also received more than $2 million for ten reservations through COPS tribal resource grants -- grants that will provide important law enforcement equipment and training to Tribal cops on the beat.

I would now like to introduce my friend and colleague Tom Perrelli, the Associate Attorney General, who will talk about the additional resources the Department is providing to address the problem of violence against women.

 

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