Recent Press Releases

Thune Sponsors Indian Crime Bill

--Measure Seeks to Address Reservation Crime Problem--

July 23, 2008

Washington, DC —  U.S. Senator John Thune today announced the introduction of the bipartisan Tribal Law and Order Act of 2008, of which he is an original cosponsor.

"Everyone in America wants to live in a community where their family and loved ones are safe and secure, where law enforcement is reliable and accessible, and where justice is served," said Thune. "Unfortunately that is the not the case in many tribal communities in South Dakota and across the nation. Children cannot be expected to excel in the classroom if they are surrounded by drugs and violence. Similarly, businesses cannot grow and create jobs in an unsafe environment. Tackling the crime issue will help to pave the way for major quality of life improvements in Indian Country. I have listened to the tribal leaders and have worked together with them to try to find solutions.

"Making greater efforts to prosecute reservation crime will require the coordination of tribal, state, and federal authorities. This bill is a positive step toward achieving that goal."

The Tribal Law and Order Act provides for the appointment of special U.S. Attorneys who can ensure that violent crime on reservations is prosecuted, improves the training programs for reservation police, empowers tribal courts to address crime by extending their sentencing authority, and improves the collection and reporting of data relating to crime in Indian Country.

In June, Senator Thune asked South Dakota tribal leaders, law enforcement officials, and other stakeholders to submit their comments and suggestions on the draft bill that was circulated at that time. As a result of those comments, Senator Thune worked with Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND) to include a provision that allows magistrates to hold trials and other court proceedings in tribal courtrooms as opposed to federal courts. Senator Thune also added language ensuring that if tribal governments and federal courts enter into agreements allowing for such trials, the Department of Justice is authorized to provide technical and other assistance.

Based upon the results of the recent policing surge on Standing Rock Indian Reservation, Senator Thune also added a provision to the Indian Crime bill focusing on community policing.

"The success of the policing surge on Standing Rock has been extremely encouraging and we need to build on it in the future. Helping reservation communities to develop successful policing efforts designed to restore a sense of order and security needs to be a high priority of the federal government and we need to learn from experiences such as the recent Standing Rock surge," Thune said.

The Thune provision requires that the Department of Justice report on the most effective methods of using community police programs on Indian reservations and to review the effectiveness of past community policing efforts on reservations. Thune's provision also directs the Department of Justice to explore the implementation of policing techniques guided by the "broken windows theory," which emphasizes the importance of addressing small-scale crimes that contribute to a climate of law-breaking which can overwhelm and destabilize a community.

"I am very grateful for all the feedback I received on the early draft of this bill. I believe that we have created legislation that not only addresses many of the roadblocks to public safety in Indian Country, but also elevates this pressing issue to the level of national attention that it deserves," said Thune.