Oglala Sioux Tribe sues federal government for insufficient law enforcement staffing on reservation

Thumbnail Img 8485PINE RIDGE RESERVATION, S.D. — The Oglala Sioux Tribe has filed a federal suit against the U.S. Government for failure to provide sufficient staffing of law enforcement officers on the Pine Ridge Reservation.

The complaint, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court, alleges that in spite of treaty requirements, the U.S. Government only provides enough federal funding for 33 law enforcement officers and eight criminal investigators, which “continues to result in extraordinary danger” for both police officers and residents across the Reservation. It goes on to outline the results of the inadequate staffing: only six to eight officers work per shift, they work unreasonable amounts of overtime and respond to calls without backup within 30 miles, and major incidents often go without a police response or thorough investigation.

Statistics provided in the complaint show that the Tribe received 133,755 emergency calls in 2021 on a reservation that’s 3.1 million acres in size. Those calls included 794 assault calls, 1,463 domestic violence calls, 522 gun-related calls, 541 drug-related calls, and 541 missing persons calls. The Tribe says the average overtime for law enforcement officers from January through June 2022 is approximately 80-hours per month – on top of 160 scheduled hours.

“In 2022, there has been an in increase in the numbers of murders, assaults, and increased drug trafficking activity that has created a public safety crisis on the Pine Ridge Reservation,” court documents read. “More dangerous drugs and more sophisticated drug dealers have entered the Reservation. Crime has increased substantially, and guns are now carried by many criminals.”

Court documents cite the Tribal Law and Order Act (2010), saying its minimum requirement of 2.8 officers per 1,000 people would require that Pine Ridge have at least 140 police officers.

The Oglala Sioux Tribe is asking the court to issue a declaratory judgement confirming that the obligation of the federal government is not being met, and require the government to grant their request for additional law enforcement officers.

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