By Dan Gunderson, Minnesota Public Radio News
New federal rules in effect this week allow Minnesota Indian tribes to seek federal crime fighting help.
Minnesota is one of six states where the state has primary criminal jurisdiction on most reservations. The new rules allow tribes to request that federal authorities investigate and prosecute crimes.
The change is a result of complaints by tribal officials that Indians were not treated fairly in the state judicial system.
“We want to make the situation better if we’re going to come in and do this,” said Tracy Toulou, who heads the federal office of Tribal Justice within the U.S. Department of Justice. “There’s obviously an issue or people wouldn’t be asking for this. And we want to be sure we make the situation better rather than status quo or worse.”
Several Minnesota tribes are expected to request federal help in fighting crime. Toulou says it will likely be July before federal officials assume jurisdiction on any Minnesota reservations.
“For any successful law enforcement relationship you need to bring all resources to the table,” Toulou said. “We clearly intend to do that, work with the state and the tribe. We hope through this process, where relationships have not been strong, by working together we can make them stronger and better.”