South Dakota’s Oglala Sioux Tribe suing federal government over law enforcement staffing

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The Oglala Sioux Tribe is suing the federal government for failing to provide adequate law enforcement on the Pine Ridge Reservation.

The lawsuit filed this week against the Bureau of Indian Affairs and some high level officials in the Interior Department alleges the inadequacy has created a “public safety crisis” on the reservation.

Tribal officials say Pine Ridge with its 3 million acres of land has just 33 police officers and eight criminal investigators who handled more than 133,700 emergency calls last year. And, that there were six to eight officers on any given shift.

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The complaint uses Rapid City as a comparison with its 176 police officers who handled nearly 115,000 emergency calls in 2021, the Argus Leader reported.

A South Dakota Native American tribe is suing the federal government for not providing adequate law enforcement staffing.

A South Dakota Native American tribe is suing the federal government for not providing adequate law enforcement staffing.

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The tribe said the BIA is out of compliance with its standards of having 2.8 officers per 1,000 people. For Pine Ridge, that would require at least 140 tribal officers.

Court documents say officers are working an average of 80 hours of overtime on top of their 160 scheduled hours and do not have adequate back up when needed for emergency calls.

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The tribe is requesting an injunction for the federal government to equip a minimum of 140 law enforcement officers on the reservation and a declaratory judgement stating the federal government violated its responsibilities to provide adequate law enforcement, according to the lawsuit.