SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The Oglala Sioux Tribe of South Dakota has filed suit against the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), Dept. of Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, and other Dept. of Interior officials.

At issue is the Tribe’s assertion that the government has failed to uphold its obligations to provide adequate law enforcement as outlined by laws and treaties.

According to documents filed in the case, the Tribe charges that this obligation has not been fulfilled, noting that they receive more than 133,755 Emergency-911 calls annually, spread across 5,400 square miles (an area they say is larger than the states of Rhode Island and Delaware combined) but are only provided 33 federally funded officers and 8 federally funded criminal investigators.

Again from court documents, the Tribe alleges that the Pine Ridge Reservation is home to more than 400,000 people who rely on BIA funded law enforcement.

Noting that the BIA currently provides funding for 33 police officers and 8 criminal investigators, the Tribe says that this equates to 6-8 officers per shift, and notes that the Dept. of Interior determines that 2.8 officers are needed per every 1,000 people.

With over 400,000 persons working or living on the reservation and just 41 BIA funded officers/investigators, this breaks down to one officer per about every 9750 people. The Tribe says this results in danger to the officers working.

Among the consequences for the low numbers of officers listed by the Tribe are the following:

  • Many 911 calls are abandoned, not responded to in time, or not thoroughly investigated.
  • High call volumes, along with too few officers force police to drive from call to call at unsafe speeds.
  • Police response time can often exceed 30 minutes, even in cases of domestic violence or other dangerous situations.
  • Officers operate alone, often with backup being over 30 miles away.
  • Crimes are not adequately investigated, and statements and other evidence are not properly collected.
  • On-reservation deaths, homicides, drug sales, officer involved accidents and overdoses have increased significantly since 1999.
  • Officers and investigators are called in to work unreasonable amounts of overtime.
  • Tribal citizens are often scared to venture out of their homes at night, especially now that gunshots are heard throughout the reservation on a frequent and re-occurring basis.

Within the complaint, the Tribe asks for a judgement stating that the defendants have a responsibility to provide sufficient law enforcement officers, and that they have violated federal law by failing to do so. The Tribe seeks increased law enforcement funding, and an injunction to compel the government to fund and equip a minimum of 2.8 tribal officers per 1,000 people.

This complaint was filed on July 26, 2022.