Webinar presenter David Rogers answered a number of your questions after his presentation, Drug Trafficking in Indian Country. Here are just a few of his responses.
Audience Question: So when we’re talking about drugs are you talking about both illegal drugs as well as prescription drugs and it sounds like from a couple of slides earlier, it sounds like you’re saying Fentanyl is an issue as well on Indian Tribes, is that right?
David Rogers: Well, Fentanyl is becoming an issue. What that drug is being what’s trafficked across the borders now and they’re using the same routes that they were using before. Marijuana is losing its significance in trafficking since it’s being legalized in so many places. But yeah, I’m talking about prescription drugs and the illicit drugs. We have a lot of issues with just burglaries and literally, literally kind of an armed or at least a forced robbery of some of our elderly people just as they walk away from the pharmacies with their prescriptions from their local health department. Somebody would stop them at the parking lot and take their prescriptions away. I know tribes are working really hard to strengthen up security in their pharmacies, in their in house service and their own clinics as well as trying to beef up security for the patients that come out of there. The prescription drug issue is a huge deal. It’s just that meth hasn’t gone away.
Audience Question: Are there actually higher or bigger or easier risks, I guess, for drug trafficking for reservations closer to Canada? Does it make it easier for them to do the drug trafficking because, I mean, it’s basically an open border between US and Canada? How does that work?
David Rogers: Yeah. Absolutely. It’s literally open up there. When you look at that border with the Black Lake Reservation, it’s just a dirt road that goes for about sixty-five miles. As long as you can cross without anybody seeing you, you’re across. It’s kind of true for the whole border, North and South. Like I said, I was down there at the Tohono O’odham border. The people that cross the border down there is literally in the thousands. Literally in the thousands upon thousands that cross down there. There’s a barbed wire fence, there’s a couple of paddle crossing because the tribes live on both sides and they have cattle, they have an existence on both sides. If you talked to people down there, they’re generally opposed to a wall, I mean, because a wall is going to divide their nation and divide their people. But at the same token the people that lived down there are victimized a lot by people that cross the border. They get their homes broken into and supplies… and water and everything kind of get taken. They’re almost prisoners of their own homes then. They have to stay there to protect their property. I don’t know if there’s an easy answer to that but when you drive along that border, especially across Montana and the Dakotas, it is vast.
Audience Question: Can you explain a little more about banishments? What does that include? Does that mean that you’re unenrolled from the tribe? Is that like losing your citizenship in the tribe? Do you lose any tribal benefits that they may get from tribal operations, all that kind of good stuff?
David Rogers: If it’s a complete banishment they are no longer tribal members. With that, they lose any identifications to the tribe, anything the tribe may offer in terms of benefits, not many tribes have benefits but they lose all that. They lose their identity. Some tribal members say that’s too harsh. That it shouldn’t be. Some tribes have actually done a limited banishment. For example, a banishment for at least one year. Or a banishment for two or three years. Then after that banishment time is up and they can come back and re-apply to be reinstated. There are different ways and different tribes are looking at doing that but during the time of banishment, they’re no longer a tribal member if they come back to the reservation they face federal trespassing charges. Quite frankly when they are banished the tribe no longer has any jurisdiction over them because they’re no longer considered tribal members. That then becomes a state or federal situation for them. In some of the state jurisdictions, they’re not really thrilled with this because if somebody’s in the reservation behaving very badly and the tribe banishes them now they become a county issue or a local town issue. Sometimes they’re not really thrilled with that effort either but it is an ancient punishment that many tribes are using today.
Audience Question: Do you have any common characteristics among Tribal Councils, elders, members, etc., who request multi-agencies assistance with trafficking? Are you seeing any commonalities or any trends among those characteristics?
David Rogers: It really varies from tribe to tribe to tribe. I am seeing Councils who are very supportive of multi-agency efforts to work together to solve public safety problems. I’ve seen some Councils who don’t want anything to do, don’t want any Federal Officers and definitely don’t want State Officers or County Deputies out there. All of this has to do with a lot of history, you know. Even when I was trying to build a Cross-Deputization agreement with some of my shared sites. I did have tribal members who didn’t support that. They didn’t want our Tribal Officers to be working for and having that authority. Again, a lot of it boils down to history. I worked in other jurisdictions where I was able to achieve Cross-Deputization with multiple counties and in one time, when I was chief up at the Makah Nation, I actually had a Deputization Agreement with the RCMP in Canada. A number of my officers were actually commissioned by the RCMP and had criminal enforcement on the Canadian-side of Vancouver Island. It’s a huge spectrum, everything in between.
Audience Question: Do you know if the NDIC Threat Assessment Report is available online anywhere?
David Rogers: The last time I looked it was. Now, I noticed that everything from the National Meth Center is gone. But I do believe that report has been published and re-published so many times you should be able to find it. It’s a really great report. I keep a copy close at hand because they were so accurate. A huge loss when they were defunded.
Audience Question: Do you know what happened in the nineties that facilitated the growth of native gangs? Can you talk about that? What was so unique about that it facilitated the growth?
David Rogers: Well, I think the media, movies, music, TV was partially responsible that facilitating the growth. But it was a large number of native families moving back to the reservation bringing their kids with them. The kids were city-wise, grew up in the city. Some may have been involved in local youth gangs or were very aware of it. When they came back to the reservation they became the teachers and began introducing that lifestyle to a lot of the native youth. A lot of the native kids, depending on where they were growing up… it can be pretty dull and boring out there, they might’ve grabbed on to that process and ran with it. When we were out doing other types of training in Indian Country in the nineties, that was when we saw our first native youth gang. I would give it four years to five years, then they were all over the place. Some of them have become very sophisticated and organized compared to the way they originally started out. It’s just a combination of things, under that perfect storm scenario that proliferated gangs in Indian Country.
Audience Question: You mentioned that there are recurring issues for Indian Country, by chance do you have any stats or examples that you can share in this?
David Rogers: Most tribes don’t have a retirement program if they do, you know, it’s the 501. Salaries are often lower than surrounding agencies, oftentimes people who go and work for the tribe in order to get the training then bounce over to another agency. With my department, we actually were able to pay our officers more than the local county so that’s one way we were trying to attract applicants to our agencies. One of the other things we tried to do is, at the time I’ve budgeted over three grand per officer per year for training. One of the common disagreements about Tribal Law Enforcement is that they’re not well trained. My guys were mega-trained. That attracted applicants. They liked how much training my guys got compared to the other agencies that they worked for. But other tribes just don’t have the resources to offer that. It’s tough to find somebody who wants to work with bad equipment, not much help, low paycheck, and without any real benefits. That’s the challenge and tribes have tried to address that. Tribes who have more resources have a better chance of doing that. Tribes with minimal resources struggle.
Audience Question: Have you seen a direct link between Latino traffickers coming on to the reservations and the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women? Is there a relation there?
David Rogers: That’s a really good question. I think we have that webinar coming up sometime soon. But a direct link? No. The missing and murdered indigenous women throughout Canada and the United States, I think is bigger than the drug traffickers. I have no doubt about drug traffickers who are trafficking in the sex trades. We have a lot of information on that. But as far as the murdered and missing, even though there can possibly be a connection to that, there seems to be just too many and the areas where they’re disappearing from are quite a ways away from a lot of the trafficking areas. That’s a good question. I’m sure they’re part of the equation. But as far as being responsible for the numbers that we’re talking about I would find it really difficult to tie-in.
Audience Question: Right. They might be co-relating but not exactly caused. Got it.
David Rogers: The problem is just bigger than one group. There’s got be multiple aspects for that one.
Audience Question: What powers or legal restrictions do tribes have to prosecute drug trafficking cases?
David Rogers: Tribes themselves? None. No, tribes do not have jurisdiction for non-tribal members. Unless the trafficker is a tribal member but even then that going to end up being a felony and that will fall under the Federal Jurisdiction. All felonies with tribal members are going to be with Federal Authorities. That’s going to be the FBI involved in that. But for a non-tribal trafficker in Indian Country if they get caught, again, the tribe itself will not have any jurisdiction but it would be the FBI or the Federal Authorities who would have authority over that.
Audience Question: Well, you may have just answered Enrico’s question. Enrico asks; “Are those who are arrested, are they prosecuted at the Federal level?” I think I heard you say yes. But clarify for me.
David Rogers: Yes. Definitely, federal level but the tribe is generally a misdemeanor court. The way their decision often stands, they don’t have any jurisdiction over anybody except their own tribal members unless they’re crossed-deputized. If they’re crossed-deputized they can make an arrest and hand it over to the State Courts or if they carry any of the FBI commissions they would be doing that with and under the color of the FBI when they deal with drug traffickers who are not tribal members committing crimes in Indian Country.
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