WANBLEE, S.D. (KOTA TV) - What the Rapid City Police are calling an "epidemic of drug fueled violent crimes taking place" in KOTA Territory spurred federal prosecutors and law enforcement officials to travel to the Pine Ridge reservation Tuesday to deliver a message that law enforcement is on the job.
Oglala Sioux Tribal Council member Stanley Little Whiteman.
The efforts to combat the crime wave are taking multiple forms. Tuesday’s gathering was the third community meeting spearheaded by South Dakota's U.S. Attorney Randy Seiler. Tribal police, ATF officers and Bureau of Indian Affairs police joined federal prosecutors in Wanblee to sound a single note: we're working on the problem.
“The message that we want to send is one of support, caring and hope,” said Seiler. “The murder rate on Pine Ridge was among the worst in the nation in 2016 but today we're making progress.”
Seiler's message was well received but community members decried the status quo. BIA positions remain unfilled and only 64 percent of budgeted tribal cop slots are staffed.
“It's fine that we have Federal officials and policemen come here,” said Richard Moves Camp of Wanblee. “But we don't have police coverage in our communities. There's no policemen here in our districts.”
While no one offered a solution to the serious recruiting problem law enforcement faces, there were other signs of cooperation and progress.
Rapid City Police and the Pennington County Sheriff are working with Pine Ridge Tribal leaders to craft a historic Mutual Aid Agreement to allow law officers to act on warrants issued across tribal borders.
It's a touchy subject for tribal elders who want to protect tribal sovereignty but one some leaders think needs to be pursued.
“We want to be deliberate about it so we get the language of the agreement just right,” said Oglala Sioux Tribal Councilmember Stanley Little Whiteman. “It's a mutual Aid Agreement. It's basically helping Pennington County, Rapid City and us in an effort to address criminals who run from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.”
Rapid City and Pennington County officials are due in Pine Ridge Wednesday to discuss the latest draft of the mutual aid agreement with a committee of the Oglala Sioux Tribal Council.