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BIA SENDS MORE POLICE OFFICERS TO PINE RIDGE

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By Mary Garrigan
PINE RIDGE — The Bureau of Indian Affairs sent another 10 police officers to the Pine Ridge Reservation this week, bringing its supplemental force there to 35 officers and its total justice-related funding on the reservation to nearly $10 million in 2008, a BIA official said Tuesday.

The costs associated with those extra 35 officers will be paid by the BIA with $500,000 in emergency funds, according to Elmer Four Dance, Special Agent in Charge at the BIA District 1 office in Aberdeen. Four Dance said the 10 extra officers were dispatched to Pine Ridge on Tuesday. They came from Oklahoma or Billings, Mont., and are either BIA officers or policemen with federal commissions from other tribal police departments.

The BIA emergency funding is "above and beyond" the more than $3.3 million in fiscal year 2008 contract funding that the BIA paid the Oglala Sioux Tribe in the past year to provide policing services on Pine Ridge. FY 2008 ends Sept. 30.

Native American tribes have the option under federal law to allow the BIA to manage all public safety services on their reservations, or they can contract with the BIA to operate their own police departments. In South Dakota, the Oglala Sioux and Rosebud Sioux tribes have tribally-run police departments. Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has a BIA-run police department.

OST President John Yellow Bird Steele has been critical of BIA funding levels as the cause of the current public safety crisis rocking the reservation. Nearly 30 police officers resigned or were relieved of duty following a scuffle that broke out between some members of the tribe's executive board and its police department at an Aug. 12 meeting. In the wake of those staffing shortages, the BIA sent 25 officers from around the country to supplement the remaining tribal police force.

The BIA says those supplemental officers will stay until it determines that the tribe is able to adequately staff and run its own department, or until a decision is made to return control of the OST Department of Public Safety to BIA management.

During FY2008, the BIA provided a total of $9,456,365 to fund all justice-related programs on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, Four Dance said. That total included $3,335,726 for law enforcement services under a Public Law 638 contract with the tribe. That money pays for the Department of Public Safety expenses, which includes police officer salaries, dispatch services, 911 services and all costs associated with providing police services. That $3.3 million includes a special appropriation of about $475,000 for additional officers in 2008.

Four Dance said a review is underway to determine how the OST Department of Safety allocated its BIA law enforcement contract. At one point in 2008, the OST police force had 56 officers, but that number has continued to change over time, he said. Former and current public safety employees say the department has had as many as 67 police officers and as few as 46 within the last 12 months.

"We're actually looking at that," Four Dance said of an ongoing BIA review of OST public safety programs. "The bottom line, again with that, is that we're going to determine where the money was spent. We'll be taking a look at how those funds were allocated in 2008."

In comparison, the Rapid City Police Department operated with a 2008 budget of $11.6 million and 132 full-time equivalent employees.

The almost $9.5 million expenditure for all criminal justice programs on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in FY2008 also included:

-- $886,579 for criminal investigation programs that are managed by the BIA with input from the tribal police department.

-- $4,826,047 in detention-related corrections costs. That total includes $2,523,171 in adult detention funds; $492,719 in juvenile detention funds; and $1,810,157 in detention facilities funding.

-- $1,137,013 for tribal court funding.
—RC Journal

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