Tribal Law and Order Act Clears
Congress, Awaits President's Signature
Legislation Includes Murkowski Language to Improve
Law Enforcement in Rural Alaska
July 21, 2010
Washington, D.C. U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, announced
today that the Tribal Law and Order Act is now on its way to
the White House for President Obama's signature following House
passage of the legislation today.
The bill, which passed the Senate last month, would improve law
enforcement and the justice system on Indian reservations in
the Lower 48. Murkowski, a senior member of the Senate Committee
on Indian Affairs, secured several provisions in the bill that
would address the lack of law enforcement in Alaska's rural communities.
One of her amendments would allow the State of Alaska, tribes,
and tribal organizations in Alaska that employ village public
safety officers (VPSOs) to fund VPSO positions with Community
Oriented Policing grants, also known as COPS grants, and Staffing
for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response Grants, or SAFER grants.
Currently, VPSO positions are funded by the State of Alaska or
through congressional earmarks.
"VPSOs are truly the first responders in the Last Frontier.
The VPSOs are the police department, the fire department, the
EMS, and search and rescue all rolled into one. It is only fair
that rural Alaska Native communities have the same access to
public safety funds that communities and cities across America
have," said Murkowski, a co-sponsor of the Senate version
of the legislation.
Additionally, Murkowski's VPSO proposal would allow all VPSOs
and Tribal Law Enforcement Officers in Alaska the option to receive
training at the Indian Police Academy of the Federal Law Enforcement
Training Center in New Mexico.
"Roughly 90 communities in rural Alaska do not have law
enforcement," Murkowski said. "I regard it as a fundamental
right that Native people should feel safe in their villages.
It is my hope that this bill will make rural communities safer."
A 2008 Amnesty International report, "Maze of Injustice,"
cast light on how difficult it is to collect and secure the forensic
evidence necessary to support sexual assault prosecutions in
Native communities around the country, including Alaska. A shortage
of rape kits, a shortage of trained personnel to collect the
evidence and shortcomings in the chain of custody process were
examples highlighted in the report.
Murkowski included an amendment that asks the Government Accountability
Office to look further into the evidence collection issue. The
amendment directs the GAO to evaluate the ability of Indian Health
Service facilities on remote Indian reservations and in Alaska
Native villages to handle the collection of forensic evidence
and provide recommendations for improvement.
"In order for Congress to provide adequate resources, we
must have documentation," Murkowski said.
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