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Final Report Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Under Public Law 280

NCJ Number
Date Published
November 2007
568 pages
This study examined the perspectives of more than 350 Indian tribal members and State and local officials on the impact of Federal Public Law (PL) 280, which structures law enforcement and criminal justice for 23 percent of the reservation-based tribal population and 51 percent of all tribes in the lower 48 States, while potentially affecting all Alaska Natives and their tribes or villages.
Analysis of the qualitative and quantitative data indicates that reservation residents in PL-280 jurisdictions typically rated the availability and quality of law enforcement and criminal justice lower than reservation residents in non-PL-280 jurisdictions. State/county law enforcement officials in PL-280 jurisdictions, on the other hand, tended to provide more positive assessments of the impact of PL 280. Regarding State or county police serving PL-280 reservations, reservation residents rated them as less available, slower in response time, less prone to attend equally to minor or serious calls, providing inadequate patrol services, being reluctant to respond to calls in remote areas, and having to travel farther in responding to calls than Federal-Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and tribal police serving non-PL-280 reservations. A large majority of reservation residents in the PL-280 tribes surveyed in this study favored rescinding State jurisdiction if Federal-BIA support were available to establish and/or develop tribal law enforcement and criminal justice systems. Published studies indicate that where this has occurred, public safety has improved, and community satisfaction has increased due to enhanced tribal sovereignty and tribal creation of justice systems that reflect community values and conceptions of justice. This study recommends the enactment of Federal legislation that authorizes tribally initiated retrocession of PL-280 jurisdictions. Other recommendations pertain to ways to improve the functioning of State/county law enforcement and criminal justice services in PL-280 jurisdictions. Chapter figures and appended study questionnaires, supplementary data, and questions and answers about PL 280

Date Published: November 1, 2007