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  • Grant D. Ashley
  • Executive Assistant Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • National Native American Law Enforcement Association National Training Conference
  • Las Vegas, Nevada
  • November 15, 2005

Good afternoon, and thank you for the privilege to speak to you again.

The jurisdiction of the FBI in Indian Country dates back practically to the FBI’s formation. This historic connection remains very important to the Bureau. But, in this time of terrorist threats, there is always concern that we will abandon our commitment to Indian Country investigations in favor of what are seen as higher priority programs.

It is true that throughout its history, the FBI has needed to shift resources to address growing threats to the country. And it has been no different since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. As you are aware, in the past four years, Special Agents and analysts throughout the FBI have been redirected towards our national security mission and away from some of our criminal matters.

However, not only have resources not been taken away from the Indian Country Program, we have actually added to the number of Special Agents working Indian Country matters. We remain strongly committed to our role in Indian Country and committed to our partnerships with you.

What I want to talk about today is where the FBI’s Indian Country Program is headed and highlight how our current programs and initiatives are taking us there.

Thirty-two FBI Divisions have active Indian Country programs. Our Albuquerque, Minneapolis, Phoenix, and Salt Lake Divisions accounted for 77 percent of all case initiations in the last year.

Today, we have 114 Special Agents working Indian Country matters, which is about a ten percent increase over last year. Additionally, 25 percent of our FBI Victim Specialists cadre are assigned exclusively to Indian Country. They provide a wide range of critical services, including transporting child victims to interviews, finding emergency shelter for victims of domestic violence, and helping families of homicide victims.

These field offices and individuals develop and implement strategies and programs to address identified crime problems in Indian Country for which the FBI has responsibility. They also work with you to support the efforts of all law enforcement personnel working in Indian Country.

They do so through key programs such as the Safe Trails Task Forces and the Indian Gaming Working Group, as well as through training initiatives. I want to take just a minute to discuss the important work that is being done through these programs.

The FBI currently funds 12 Safe Trails Task Forces, and two additional task forces are being planned. These task forces unite the FBI with other federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies in a collaborative effort to address crime that would normally be under-addressed or unaddressed without the task force. They allow us to combine all of our resources in an effective manner.

Last year at this conference, I told you that a Safe Trails Task Force was coming to Minnesota in 2005. Within months of its being established, we saw the value of these collaborative efforts.

I am sure that all of you are aware of the Red Lake Reservation school shooting. A juvenile shot and killed his grandfather and his grandfather’s girlfriend. He then proceeded to Red Lake High School where he shot and killed seven individuals before taking his own life.

In response, the new Safe Trails Task Force in Minneapolis helped facilitate what many believe to be the best example of law enforcement cooperation in Indian Country.

The Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Minneapolis Field Office dispatched more than 50 FBI employees to the Red Lake Indian Reservation, including Special Agents, an Evidence Response Team, Victim Specialists, and other support and tactical personnel. Personnel from the FBI Firearms and Toolmark Unit as well as the Special Projects Unit were dispatched to produce a three-dimensional ballistic reconstruction. And eight Intelligence Analysts were sent to analyze the information seized from more than 100 computers. The work of the FBI and tribal law enforcement resulted in one arrest for Committing an Act in Furtherance of the shooting.

Safe Trails Task Forces lay the foundation for such cooperation. The FBI is pleased that this program is expanding and we expect it to further promote the partnerships between us, tribal law enforcement, and all agencies with responsibilities in Indian Country.

Another program that is expanding is the Indian Gaming Working Group. With approximately 360 Indian gaming operations in the United States and revenues nearing $20 billion, these establishments are an economic boon and a target for criminal activity.

Since 2003, the Indian Gaming Working Group has brought together representatives from the FBI and seven federal agencies to address Indian Gaming matters with national significance. The Working Group provides analysts, financial assistance, functional area expertise, and coordination assistance in cases deemed to have a significant impact on Indian communities and the Indian Gaming industry.

In the last year, the FBI has added 10 Special Agent positions and 8 Financial Analyst positions to address criminal acts related to Indian Gaming. Additionally, we conducted three Regional Indian Gaming Conferences that have fostered local working groups throughout the country. In 2006, four gaming conferences are planned for a targeted audience of tribal commissioners and compliance personnel.

Training such as these gaming conferences is vital to our goal of increasing the capabilities you have to conduct criminal investigations. In fact, the FBI has trained nearly 5,500 Indian Country law enforcement officers and related personnel since 1997. And we do not intend to cut back these efforts.

In the coming year, the FBI’s Indian Country/Special Jurisdiction Unit and the Bureau of Indian Affairs Indian Police Academy will offer 21 regional training conferences. These will cover topics such as crime scene investigation, critical incident response, forensic interviewing of children, and officer street survival.

We also offer firearms instruction through the Salt Lake City Division focusing on tribal officers and other rural local officers in agencies adjacent to or near Indian Reservations. Approximately 80 officers each year receive this training that not only enhances their skill, but enhances liaison with the FBI.

And, of course, we provide ongoing support to this National Conference, including instructor and logistical support in the Drugs/Violent Crime track of instruction. Last year’s event trained more than 350 personnel.

Through these training programs, the Indian Gaming Working Group, and the Safe Trails Task Forces, we have a solid foundation for the Director’s vision for cooperation and support in Indian Country between the FBI and all our partners. It is our ambition to assist Native American law enforcement agencies so that they can provide the same services to their citizens that non-Native American law enforcement agencies do.

As a result, each year, tribal law enforcement agencies are improving their criminal investigative abilities. This has allowed us to better target our resources to the needs of Indian Country. Moving forward, we will continue to build on this progress.

Before I close, I want to make one point about how the FBI relates to Indian Country—there is not Indian Country and then everything else. We understand that you are vulnerable to the same threats as someone living in Washington, D.C., including terrorism, human trafficking, and gangs.

In fact, I know you are just as concerned as the rest of the country is about things like illegal immigration, and that many of your Reservations are directly impacted by it. The close proximity of the border to many Reservations make them an avenue for illegal migrants to enter the United States.

Director Mueller has made improving our partnerships with law enforcement agencies a priority for a reason. Working side-by-side is not just the best option, it is the only option.

That is why we wanted you involved in the Director’s Law Enforcement Advisory Group. This group is a forum for discussions, analysis, and recommendations regarding law enforcement issues of interest both to the FBI and to you.

We also have an individual in our Office of Law Enforcement Coordination whose responsibility is to reach out to your law enforcement agencies and keep the lines of communication open. And we are pleased that the FBI’s National Academy just graduated an officer from Indian Country.

In the fight against terrorism, human trafficking, and gangs, we all have the same goals, and the work each of us does in these areas and others benefit the entire country. We are all in this together, and we are glad to have you on the team.

The FBI’s Indian Country Program is staffed by agents and analysts dedicated to fulfilling our historic commitment to law enforcement in Indian Country. The men and women of the FBI are proud to be your partners in keeping Indian Country safe. We look forward to our continued commitment to Indian Country and continued progress in reducing crime.

Thank you.

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