The purpose of this study was to
advance understanding of Public Law 280 and its impact, from the point of view of tribal
members as well as state and local officials. This study aimed to answer five questions:
- How do crime rates on reservations
affected by Public Law 280 compare with crime rates on other reservations and elsewhere
within Public Law 280 states?
- Is law enforcement more or less available or well
funded for tribes affected by Public Law 280 as compared with non-Public Law 280
tribes, and elsewhere in Public Law 280 states?
- What is the quality of state law
enforcement and criminal justice under Public Law 280 in terms of cultural awareness
and sensitivity, fairness of treatment, responsiveness to community priorities,
thoroughness of investigations, etc., as compared with law enforcement and criminal
justice in non-Public Law 280 jurisdictions?
- Does the presence of state law
enforcement inhibit or impair tribal legal development?
- How effective have
cooperative agreements, concurrent jurisdiction, and retrocession efforts been to alleviate
any problems that may be associated with Public Law 280?
Interviews were conducted at 17 different reservation sites over 2 years. A team of 3 researchers visited each of the sites for one week each, meeting
with and interviewing a total of 354 individuals, including 227 reservation residents, 49 law enforcement personnel, and 78 criminal justice personnel. Reservation residents are people who lived on the reservation or worked for the tribal government, and generally have some connection to tribal government and/or criminal justice issues. Law enforcement personnel are people who worked for state/county or federal-Bureau of
Indian Affairs (BIA) police departments, or tribal police in non-Public Law 280 jurisdictions. Criminal justice personnel are people who worked for federal-BIA, county, or non-Public Law 280 tribal courts.
The interviews lasted from one to three hours. Each of the interviewees was provided with and signed a consent form. The interview instruments for each category of interviewee were similar and designed to facilitate comparisons. The research team made slight changes to adapt the instruments for the reservation residents, the state or federal law enforcement personnel, and the state or federal criminal justice personnel.
The research team selected tribes for this study in order to obtain as much comparable tribal data
as possible from Public Law 280 and non-Public Law 280 tribes. At the same time, the research team
chose tribes from a variety of Public Law 280 and non-Public Law 280 situations so they
could assess whether experiences differ as a result of those different circumstances.
The constants in selecting tribes for the study were:
- a substantial and consistent size
in acreage and population of reservation
- reservation covering one county (when
possible) for consistency of data
- a written commitment to participate in the
research and to abide by requirements for the protection of human subjects
The research team selected 17 tribes to participate in the study. Of the 17 sample communities, 12 were subject to state/county jurisdiction under Public Law 280, four were operating under the
more typical federal/tribal criminal jurisdiction regime, and one was a "straddler" with some territory
in a state covered by Public Law 280 and the remainder in a different state. The cases were selected and matched to ensure comparisons and inclusion of each
of the different types of Public Law 280 conditions. Non-Public Law 280 comparison
communities were selected as retroceded communities, stragglers, or never were under
Public Law 280 jurisdiction.
In order to
test for variables the research team hypothesized might be important, such as degree of tribal control
and availability of resources to support law enforcement and criminal justice, they
deliberately included some Public Law 280 tribes that have tribal courts, cooperative
agreements, and/or successful economic development enterprises.
Three target groups of interviewees were identified:
- reservation residents and tribal officials
state, local, and federal law enforcement officers
- state, local, and federal criminal
reservation residents included the chief of tribal police or public safety
(where there was one), the chief judge (where there was one), the tribal chair or other
council members, tribal administrators or managers, and elders. Law enforcement
officers invariably included the head of law enforcement for the state or federal
government or that person's chief deputy, as well as other officers. Criminal justice officials included prosecutors, public defenders, and judicial
officers at each site, as well as probation or parole officers.
Additional interviewees were
identified through the "snowballing" technique, in which an interviewee identifies others
relevant to the study.
The final sample of 354 interviewees included 227 reservation residents, 49 law enforcement personnel, and 78 criminal justice personnel.
All reservation residents, law enforcement personnel, and criminal justice personnel living in or working with Native American reservations in the United States between 2003 and 2005.
Interviews with reservation residents, law enforcement personnel, and criminal justice personnel.
The dataset contains 56 variables pertaining to knowledge of Public Law 280, cultural awareness and
sensitivity, communication with community members, fairness of treatment, thoroughness of
investigations, community willingness to report crimes to police, and responsiveness to
community priorities. It includes variables concerning occurences of homicide, rape, robbery, aggrivated assault, domestic violence, burglary, larceny, theft, vehicle theft, arson, DUI, drug offenses, and child abuse, as well as the perception of priority each respondent believes law enforcement assigns to each crime. These two factors are used to calculate a third variable for each offense regarding the difference between crime occurence and priority. Demographic variables include gender, respondent type, site, and Public Law 280 status.
Several Likert-type scales were used.