This week, the President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice began its hearing on rural and tribal justice over three days via teleconference. Each teleconference featured expert witnesses who provided testimony and, subsequently, answered questions from the commissioners.
On Tuesday, May 19, the commission received testimony from Ronald Parsons, U.S. Attorney for the District of South Dakota; Andover (Kansas) Police Chief Michael Keller; Apex (North Carolina) Police Chief John Letteney, and; Ziebach County (South Dakota) State Attorney Cheryl Laurenz-Bogue.
Testimony and discussions focused on challenges law enforcement face in rural areas. All panelists spoke of the urgent need for resources in rural counties across the country. There is a lack of recruits, funding, technology, and training. In addition, across rural America, substance abuse, specifically methamphetamine, is having a significant impact on communities and leading to an increase in crime.
On Wednesday, May 20, the commission heard testimony from Cochise County (Ariz.) Sheriff Mark Dannels; Bryan Schroeder, U.S. Attorney for the District of Alaska; Laramie County (Wyoming) Sheriff Danny Glick, and; Carleton County (Minn.) Sheriff Kelly Lake.
Testimony and discussion focused on geographic issues for rural communities. The panelists spoke of the hardship long distance and challenging terrain presents to rural law enforcement. There are too few law enforcement officers given the size of the jurisdiction they are tasked with policing. For instance, the transport times from jails to courts or for an officer to respond to an emergency call can take hours. Similarly, law enforcement need proper equipment and vehicles for some of the more challenging landscapes – especially in Alaska where there are often few roads.
On Thursday, May 21, the commission heard testimony from Trent Shores, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Oklahoma; Saint Regis Mohawk Tribal (New York) Police Chief Matthew Rourke; Redding Rancheria Tribal Court Chief Judge Richard Blake, and; Sycuan Tribe (Calif.) Police Chief Bill Denke.
Testimony and discussion focused on the criminal justice system in Indian Country. The panelists testified to the need for more law enforcement partnerships, more law enforcement officers on the ground, and, if the officers or agents are non-tribal, the need for law enforcement to have an awareness and appreciation for tribal culture.
The commission will conclude its hearing on rural and tribal justice next week.
For more information on the Commission, please visit: https://www.justice.gov/ag/presidential-commission-law-enforcement-and-administration-justice. Audio recordings and transcripts of the hearings will be posted online once available.