In June 2009, the Justice Department announced the launch of a major new initiative to increase engagement, coordination and action on public safety in tribal communities. The effort was launched with a series of regional summits to seek input from tribal representatives. Planning sessions included department component leaders, tribal leaders and experts in relevant areas to begin talks on a range of important issues including:
- law enforcement policy and personnel;
- communications and consultation;
- grants and technical assistance;
- detention facilities;
- federal prosecution in Indian country;
- tribal court development;
- domestic violence;
- drug courts and substance abuse;
- federal litigation involving tribes; and
- civil rights.
The regional meetings also helped set the agenda for the departments October 2009 Tribal Nations Listening Session, which Attorney General Eric Holder convened. The Listening Session afforded department officials the opportunity to directly engage with tribal leaders on how to address the chronic problems of public safety in tribal communities. Attorney General Janet Reno, in 1994, convened the only other National Listening Session, sponsored jointly with the Department of the Interior. This meeting led to numerous initiatives, including major funding for tribal police, jails and courts.
Although this meeting was critical, but it was only one in a number of steps the department is taking to put a major spotlight on this issue. For more than a decade, individual Department of Justice components have provided resources, grant funding and technical assistance to tribal communities across the nation, including the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, the Office of Justice Programs, Office on Tribal Justice and the Office on Violence Against Women. Now, for the first time, all of the department’s components and leaders are working together to provide the most efficient and timely information to tribal communities. As we continue to roll-out new policy initiatives and grant opportunities, this site will act as a one-stop shop for tribal communities. We developed it to be a user-friendly, updated and comprehensive resource for American Indian and Alaska Native tribal communities to help improve public safety. The site’s enhancements continue the department’s commitment to increase communication and make resources more available to tribal governments and consortiums.