US attorney hosts tribal listening session

Bismarck, North Dakota (AP) March 2011

The U.S. attorney for North Dakota has pledged increased communication between his office and Indian tribes in the state during a tribal listening session at United Tribes Technical College to discuss improving public safety.

U.S. Attorney Tim Purdon, whose office sponsored last week's meeting with tribal and law enforcement officials, said he has assigned one assistant U.S. attorney to each of North Dakota’s reservations who will visit their assigned reservations at least once a month to work with tribal prosecutors and other officials to better handle cases and communicate needs.

“This is about communication and hearing from you about how we can help on your reservation,” Purdon said during his opening remarks.

Other issues discussed during speeches and breakout sessions included jurisdictional problems, a lack of response to victims and an absence of transitional housing for offenders returning from incarceration, the Bismarck Tribune reported recently.

Darren Cruzan, deputy director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ Office of Justice Services, said in his keynote address that training at the technical college is one way the bureau is working on increasing law enforcement numbers on reservations across the country, many of which have been chronically understaffed.

He said the agency also held a job fair at Sitting Bull College to try to fill open positions. It attracted 112 people, of which 54 received conditional job offers and 49 may be considered later.

One of the people receiving one of those conditional offers was 21-year-old Brittney Halsey, who is set to graduate with a degree in criminal justice from Sitting Bull College in May.

Halsey, who is interning with the Bureau of Indian Affairs on Standing Rock, recently went out with officers on a ride-along.

Cruzon said the officers were responding to a head-on, weather-related crash between a car and a school bus. They didn’t know where Halsey was and assumed she had gone back to a squad car to warm up, but they found her already in the school bus, consoling children.

“You’re exactly the kind of person we are looking for,” Cruzan told Halsey.