Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Tohono O'odham Police Collaborate to Fight Border Problems

The long and seemingly deserted southern border of the Tohono O'Odham Nation attracts drug smugglers and other illicit activities, creating a policing nightmare for the tribal police force. In the years leading up to 2007, the crime statistics were astounding:
  • an average of 10,000 arrests per month 
  • 1500 wrecked or abandoned vehicles towed every year
  • At least 100 tribal members involved in narcotics related activity
  • About 350 bodies a year found on the reservation
  • Critical cultural and natural areas damaged or destroyed
Tribal police turned to state, federal and other tribal partners for help addressing border security and smuggling. Out of this work, law enforcement agencies in Arizona have developed a model collaborative approach that is transforming tribal policing.

According to Edward Reina, Jr., Director of Public Safety for the Tohono O'odham Nation,  Arizona has become "a model of how states should work with Indian Country." In testimony before the Senate this year, he points to a statutory revision that allows trained and qualified tribal police officers to become state Peace Officers that allows them to arrest all offenders; better training for state officers that has reduced misunderstandings regarding extraditions from tribal lands; better data collection and sharing; continuing cooperation with federal agencies, including the FBI, the US Attorney's office, ICE, DEA, ATF, Border Patrol and BIA Law Enforcement. Stakeholders at the tribal, state and federal level meet monthly to share information, discuss needs, develop programs, seek funding and eliminate duplication of effort.

The result? Tribal police led multi-agency efforts to break up large methamphetamine and cocaine rings on the reservation, placed School Resource Officers in each of the tribe's five schools, built a Fusion Center to collect and store offender data, built a Sex Offender registry, and has developed positive working relationships with dozens of agencies and organizations who share a common interest in solving the problems brought by drug smuggling.

To learn more about how a collaborative approach can help you solve your tribe's law enforcement problems, sign up today for our free webinar on Creating Collaboration Through Community Policing. Alternately, join us for our final Tribal Prescription Drugs and Drug Endangered Children training session in Phoenix, AZ (it's also free!) and talk with Arizona tribal professionals about what's working and what still needs to be better.


  1. The date, and parts of sentences/paragraphs: "...drug struggles (and) other illegal activities...": "...the drug statistics were astounding...": (&, further down)...: According to Edward Reina Jr. ...: (&, further down)...: "...methamphetamine (and) drugs..." are all HARD TO READ, unlike
    the rest of the typed words - due to highlighting, maybe? Stop the highlighting, it interrupts reading (changing color on computer screen), disrupts from reading the article - annoying! Good article though!

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