BJS: Bureau of Justice Statistics

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Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS)
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Tribal Law Enforcement
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Tribally operated law enforcement agencies provide a broad range of public safety services such as responding to calls for service, investigating crimes, enforcing traffic laws, executing arrest warrants, serving process, providing court security, and conducting search and rescue operations. Findings are based on the 2008 Census of State and Local Law Enforcement Agencies.

Summary findings

  • As of September 2008, American Indian tribes operated 178 law enforcement agencies that employed the equivalent of at least one full-time sworn officer with general arrest powers. In addition, the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) operated 42 agencies providing law enforcement services in Indian country.
  • A total of 157 tribally operated law enforcement agencies were general purpose police departments, and the remainder were special jurisdiction agencies responsible for enforcing natural resources laws.
  • Tribally operated agencies employed more than 4,500 full-time personnel, including about 3,000 sworn officers. 
  • Eleven of the 25 largest tribal law enforcement agencies served jurisdictions covering more than 1,000 square miles.
  • The largest tribal law enforcement agency, the Navajo Police Department, employed 393 full-time sworn personnel in Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah.
  • More than half of tribal police departments used community policing officers, and more than a third used school resource officers.
  • About 4 in 5 tribal police departments participated in 1 or more multi-agency task forces. Departments were most likely to participate in drug task forces (66%).

Data Collections & Surveys

Publications & Products


Tribal Crime Data Collection Activities, 2015 Describes Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) activities to collect and improve data on crime and justice in Indian country, as required by the Tribal Law and Order Act, 2010.
  Summary (PDF 205KB) | PDF (790KB) | ASCII file (37KB) | Comma-delimited format (csv) (Zip format 6KB)
Part of the Tribal Crime Data Collection Activities Series

Tribal Crime Data Collection Activities, 2013 Describes Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) activities to collect and improve data on crime and justice in Indian country, as required by the Tribal Law and Order Act, 2010.
  PDF (888K) | ASCII file (34K) | Comma-delimited format (CSV) (Zip format 23K)
Part of the Tribal Crime Data Collection Activities Series

Jails in Indian Country, 2011 2,239 INMATES IN INDIAN COUNTRY JAILS IN 2011, UP 5.7 PERCENT FROM 2010
  Press Release
Part of the Jails in Indian Country Series

Compendium of Tribal Crime Data, 2011 Focuses on BJS's existing data on key criminal justice issues in Indian country and addresses gaps in tribal crime data.
 

Jails in Indian Country, 2009 INMATE POPULATION IN INDIAN COUNTRY JAILS INCREASED 1.9 PERCENT IN 2009
  Press Release
Part of the Jails in Indian Country Series

Census of Tribal Justice Agencies in Indian Country, 2002 Presents detailed information gathered on tribal law enforcement agencies, tribal courts and services, and criminal record systems from the 2002 Census of Tribal Justice Agencies in American Indian Jurisdictions.
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Tribal Law Enforcement, 2000 Presents information on the characteristics of tribally operated law enforcement agencies in the United States, including personnel, services, and functions.
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Terms & Definitions

Criminal jurisdiction in Tribal areas Jurisdiction over offenses in Indian country may lie with federal, state, or tribal agencies depending upon the particular offense, the offender, the victim, and the offense location. For more information on tribal jurisdiction, see Census of Tribal Justice Agencies in Indian Country, 2002 (NCJ 205332) and also Jails in Indian Country (NCJ 1932400).
 
Cross deputization agreements Allow law enforcement personnel from state and tribal entities to cross jurisdictions in criminal cases. Cross deputization agreements have been used to enhance law enforcement capabilities in areas were state and tribal lands were contiguous and intermingled. Under some agreements, federal, state, county/local, and/or tribal law enforcement officers have the power to arrest Indian and non-Indian wrongdoers wherever the violation of law occurs.
 
Public Law 83-280 (commonly referred to as Public Law 280 or P.L. 280) Establishes criminal justice responsibilities among American Indian tribes with tribal land, the states in which tribes are located, and the federal government. Public Law 280 is mandatory or optional for 204 tribes, about two-thirds of the total in the lower 48 states. In states where P.L. 280 does not apply, the federal government retains criminal jurisdiction for major crimes committed under the Indian Country Crimes Act (Title 18, United States Code, Section 1152), the Indian Country Major Crimes Act (Title 18, United States Code, Section 1153), and the Assimilative Crimes Act (Title 18, United States Code, Section 13).
 
Public Law 93-638 The Indian Self-Determination of Act 1975, affords tribes the opportunity to provide for their own police departments and other institutional services through federal grants and contracts.
 
Tribal police powers Authority to exercise criminal jurisdiction over all tribal members and the authority to arrest and detain non-Indians for delivery to state or federal authorities for prosecution. These tribal police powers are generally limited to tribal lands.
 
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