Las Vegas Sun

October 22, 2021

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Crimes on reservations catch eye of U.S. attorneys

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Daniel Bogden

Beyond the Sun

The top federal prosecutor in Las Vegas has begun assessing the law enforcement needs of Native Americans in Nevada as part of a sweeping Justice Department review to provide more police, equipment and manpower to reservations here and across the country.

The review, launched by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, is expected to culminate this month at a “listening” session in Minneapolis when Holder and his top advisers meet with hundreds of tribal leaders from Nevada and elsewhere.

Daniel Bogden, the U.S. attorney here, last week participated in planning sessions in Washington and hopes to obtain funding for another “tribal liaison prosecutor” in his office to meet regularly with Nevada’s 27 tribes on 31 reservations throughout the state. He also would like more officers to supplement the three FBI agents and one Bureau of Indian Affairs specialist who now investigate federal crimes on Native American land.

“It’s going to be a top Justice Department priority,” Bogden said in an interview Wednesday.

Although Native Americans in Nevada represent only 1 percent of the state’s population, he said “the problems here are exacerbated because there are too many small tribes spread all over.”

Heidi Waterman, tribal administrator at the Walker River Paiute reservation, one of the largest in the state, said unemployment there has reached 80 percent and that half of the 3,200 members have moved away. “We have a real shortfall in the things we need right now,” she said.

Geoff Rivera, the Walker River police chief, said he is short a police officer but has no budget to fill the job. His police cars are 5 years old and older, he said, and the police communications system and cell phones malfunction. “We have a lot of unkept roads and a lot of desert to patrol, and I don’t even have the money to fund a dispatcher,” he said.

Bogden said 43 people have been charged with felonies in recent years on Nevada reservations — from drugs to sexual assault and one case of attempted murder. “We’ve had a high incidence of violence,” he said, given the small number of Native Americans.

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