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Murkowski Amendments Accepted as Part of Tribal Law and Order Act of 2009

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs today approved the Tribal Law and Order Act of 2009, a bill that would improve law enforcement on Indian lands and Alaska Native communities afflicted by high rates of violent crime, according to U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska. The Committee accepted three amendments offered by Sen. Murkowski that would address the lack of law enforcement in rural communities.

"We have a very challenging situation in rural Alaska," said Sen. Murkowski. "The remoteness and isolation of our state presents tremendous challenges to addressing the absence of law enforcement in rural communities"

One of Senator Murkowski's amendments would authorize a study to examine the capabilities of Indian Health Service facilities on remote Indian reservations and Alaska Native communities to collect, maintain and secure evidence of sexual assaults and domestic violence required for criminal prosecution.

"Amnesty International has directed attention to the fact that one in three American Indian and Alaska Native woman will be sexually assaulted," said Sen. Murkowski. "Furthermore, our own Alaska Rural and Justice and Law enforcement Commission has reported that Alaska Native women suffer the highest rate of forcible sexual assault in the United States."

Sen. Murkowski also introduced an amendment that would make Indian tribes and tribal organizations that employ Village Public Safety Officers (VPSOs) eligible to apply for federal Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grants and fire and emergency response grants. The amendment would authorize training for village public safety officers and tribal law enforcement positions funded under the COPS program at the Indian Policy Academy of the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center or the police academy in the State of Alaska.

"We have roughly 70 VPSOs; however, there are nearly 200 villages in rural Alaska," said Sen. Murkowski. "We need to improve the number and training of VPSOs in Alaska."

Sen. Murkowski's third amendment would establish a demonstration project to provide grants to Indian tribes encouraging innovative approaches to improve public safety in Alaska Native villages, with an emphasis on reducing the rates of sexual assault, domestic violence and drug- and alcohol-related crimes. The amendment would also include the development of tribal ordinances, civil enforcement of tribal ordinances against tribal members, tribal court training and development, and cooperative efforts between Indian tribes, and the State of Alaska or the United States to enforce applicable laws.

The bill is sponsored by Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-North Dakota, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. The bill now advances to the full Senate for consideration.

Posted Sept. 10, 2009

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