WASHINGTON, D.C. – During remarks at the Trilateral Working Group on Violence Against Indigenous Women and Girls, Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco announced a directive to all U.S. Attorneys and law enforcement component heads addressing public safety in Indian Country, including violence directed at Indigenous women, youth and children.
In a memorandum, Deputy Attorney General Monaco declared it a priority of the Department of Justice to address the disproportionately high rates of violence experienced by American Indians and Alaska Natives, and relatedly, the high rates of Indigenous persons reported missing. The memorandum directs each U.S. Attorney with Indian country jurisdiction – along with their law enforcement partners at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the FBI and the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS) – to update and develop new plans for addressing public safety in Indian Country.
“With this memorandum, we are reaffirming the Department’s unwavering commitment to promoting public safety in Indian Country and to respecting tribal sovereignty,” said Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco. “Tribes know best how to make their communities safer, and tribal engagement has thus been the cornerstone of the Department’s review of its policies and procedures. Federal law enforcement agencies will continue to work diligently with our tribal partners in support of public safety in Indian Country.”
In November 2021, the Department established a Steering Committee dedicated to marshalling the Department’s resources and personnel to address public safety and the issues of missing or murdered Indigenous persons. The Steering Committee undertook a review – in close consultation with tribal leaders and stakeholders – of the Department’s relevant guidance, policies and practices to improve the law enforcement response in Indian Country.
The memorandum marks the first guidance from the Deputy Attorney General to U.S. Attorneys in Indian Country since 2010, when then-Deputy Attorney General David Ogden required each U.S. Attorney within Indian Country jurisdiction to establish a structure and plan for addressing public safety in Indian Country. Deputy Attorney General Monaco’s memorandum sets forth needed updates, which account for significant legal and legislative developments in the intervening decade, including the Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010, Savanna’s Act, the Not Invisible Act of 2019 and the 2013 and 2022 reauthorizations of the Violence Against Women Act. The memorandum also recognizes that the Department’s law enforcement components are essential to investigating crimes in Indian Country, and it directs those agencies to adopt their own guidelines, policies and protocols to address the unique public safety challenges in Indian Country.
In particular, the memorandum instructs Department prosecutors and law enforcement officers to update their operational plans, policies, and protocols to:
- Coordinate with tribal, state and local law enforcement officers, as well as other federal agencies
- Support victims, survivors and their families in a victim-centered and culturally-appropriate manner
- Address cases, including unresolved cases, involving missing or murdered indigenous people
The memorandum also directs U.S. Attorneys Offices and law enforcement agencies to engage with tribes to better address priority public safety issues, including combating violence against women, youth and children and addressing the devastating consequences of drug trafficking and substance use disorder in Indian Country.