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Policing in Indian Country

Michael L. Barker
ISBN: 978-0-911577-44-0
1997/146 pages
A CriminalJusticePressProject


A study examines the history of and current methods used by Native-American policing agencies. Data were obtained from field visits to the Great Plains Reservation Trial Police Department, agency reports and secondary sources.

Early Native-American justice differed significantly from that of the European settlers, especially in its primary emphasis on restitution and community harmony. However, the vast majority of tribal police departments today rigidly adhere to the bureaucratic, crime-control model of policing. Absent from the Great Plains tribal police force was any involvement in alternative policing strategies such as community policing, foot patrol, neighborhood police stations, or problem-solving training for officers. With only a single exception, all tribal members consulted during the course of the research approved of the crime-control policing style provided by the Great Plains department.

This study, based on extensive interviews and reviews of published material by police departments in Indian country, offers a rare glimpse into the ways in which Indian territories are policed, especially their organization, and the way police officers think about their work.


  • Preface—D. Bayley.
  • Traditional American Indian Methods of Social Control.
  • Evolution of the Contemporary American Indian Policing Structure.
  • The Legislative Attack on Traditional Native Social Control.
  • The Jurisdictional Challenges to Native Social Control.
  • An American Indian Tribal Policing Department.
  • The Traditionalist Alternative: Does it Exist?