Navajo Nation President Nez Brings Public Safety Advocacy to Congress

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer on Capitol Hill on Thursday, March 7, 2019.

ublished March 8, 2019

WASHINGTON — Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez was joined by Vice President Myron Lizer as he testified before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies on Thursday, regarding the Navajo Nation’s fiscal 2020 priorities for public safety.

“I thank this subcommittee for working on a bipartisan basis to increase funding for Indian programs. For the Navajo Nation, it’s important that we work together with all both parties to advance the issues that are important for our Navajo people,” President Nez said.

President Nez indicated that public safety is one of the Nez-Lizer administration’s top priorities. “Every year, we request funding increases and, even with the small, incremental improvements, it does not meet the demands,” President Nez said. “The Navajo Nation estimates that it would take at least $74 million in additional funding per year to ensure proper law enforcement and judicial services.”

According to the Navajo Nation Division of Public Safety, 44-percent of calls to DPS involved violent crimes from 2010 to 2016. In 2018, the Navajo Police Department responded to over 248,000 service calls with approximately 27,000 arrests.

In responding to criminal activity, there are fewer than 205 patrol officers, 27 criminal investigators, and four internal investigators for the entire Navajo reservation. The Navajo Nation Department of Criminal Investigations responds to approximately 30 to 50 homicides per year, which represents a rate that is about four times the national average.

“With about 174,000 people on the Navajo Nation, we have 13.4 patrol officers per 10,000 citizens, which is less than the national average of 24 officers per 10,000. We would have to hire 115 more patrol officers and 30 more criminal investigators to close the gap,” President Nez said.

The deficit in police officers and the vast travel distances increases response times for the officers, allowing more perpetrators to commit and evade crimes on the Navajo Nation.

“Gathering and analyzing criminal evidence is also difficult. We have no funding to hire medical examiners. Deceased individuals are transported long distances to state autopsy facilities. Evidence for federal crimes are submitted to the federal crime lab, but there is no lab facility for a case that is purely under Navajo jurisdiction,” President Nez added.

The Navajo Nation currently operates six Adult Detention Facilities with 345 beds and four juvenile detention facilities with 98 beds.

“Our judges handle about 50,000 to 52,000 cases per year. We also have only 14 prosecutors to handle all these cases. In fiscal 2018, the prosecutors received about 17,000 cases, double from the prior fiscal year. There are no advocates to support victims of crime. We would also like to update our courthouses where these cases are heard,” President Nez said. “The federal government has a responsibility under the Navajo Treaty of 1868 and a trust obligation, to protect and assist the Nation in securing and developing our people, land, and resources.”

Navajo-Hopi Land Commission Office Executive Director Robert K. Black, Jr. also provided testimony at the hearing in support of the continuation of the Navajo-Hopi Indian Relocation Office to assist residents who were relocated due to the Bennett Freeze imposed by the federal government.

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