Concerns raised about increasing tribal police powers

A television news show in New Mexico raised concerns about a recent federal law that increased the criminal jurisidictional authority of tribal police forces.

The news reports in part that U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman, N.M., heard concerns on Thursday about the new law. A dozen officials of various tribes attended the roundtable discussion at San Juan College in Farmington.

The bill, passed in July, gives tribal authorities more power to prosecute crimes committed on tribal lands. Some officials say this will not be easy to enact on the ground.

“Without additional funding, we’re never going to be able to do it,” Navajo chief prosecutor Bernadine Martin said. Martin told Eyewitness News 4 that federal funding for tribal public safety is “spotty” and that inadequate jail space will also make it difficult to successfully implement the law.

Tribal authorities told Senator Bingaman their officers need better training to carry out the new law. “We’re losing cases, and people are not being prosecuted,” Jicarilla Apache Police Lt. Russ Thomas said.

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