The other public safety agencies that we sometimes forget

I’ve been working with law enforcement agencies for a long time now, and have interacted with several federal law enforcement agencies, a number of state agencies, and a number of county/parish/city agencies.

(I really shouldn’t do this again. I really shouldn’t do this again. I really shouldn’t do this again.)

In fact, as Ed McMahon would say, those interactions mean that I have interacted with all of the levels of law enforcement in the United States.

And, as can be expected, Johnny Carson steps in to correct this mistaken assumption.

By Johnny_Carson_with_fan.jpg: Peter Martorano from Cleveland, Ohio, USAderivative work: TheCuriousGnome (talk) – Johnny_Carson_with_fan.jpg, CC BY 2.0,

Because, you see, there are other law enforcement agencies in the United States that are outside of the jurisdiction of the states.

By Presidentman – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Forensic Magazine recently reminded us of this in its article “DOJ Gives Nearly $1 M to NamUs to Support American Indians, Alaska Natives Cases.” But before I get into these other law enforcement agencies, let’s look at why the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) work with Native Americans is important.

“Our research tells us that American Indians and Alaska Natives experience violence at rates well above those of many other groups, a disparity that is sadly reflected in reports of missing and unidentified Native Americans,” said Jennifer Scherer, Acting Director of the National Institute of Justice, the division of the Justice Department’s Office of Justice Programs that manages NamUs.

So about a million dollars is going to the NamUs system. But like other federal systems, the DOJ doesn’t work alone.

Since 2017, NamUs staff have provided training and outreach to American Indian and Alaska Native communities through more than 50 events and webinars. To encourage tribal law enforcement participation…

Allow me to pause right here.

Yes, there are over 200 tribal law enforcement agencies that are outside of the control of the states.

Tribally operated law enforcement agencies provide a broad range of public safety services. They respond to calls for service, investigate crimes, enforce traffic laws, execute arrest warrants, serve process, provide court security, and conduct search and rescue operations. 

So let’s go back to NamUs and see how it works with these agencies.

To encourage tribal law enforcement participation, the NamUs system is pre-loaded with information on more than 300 federally-recognized tribal law enforcement agencies so officers can quickly access cases and share information. 

(Over 200, over 300, we’ll figure the real number out later.)

In many cases, the relevant federal agencies merely operate as clearinghouses so that tribal, state, or other agencies can seamlessly work together to solve crimes. Because crime often crosses state (or reservation) borders, this collaboration is crucial. It lets the relevant law enforcement agencies achieve their common purpose:

…to increase the chances of case resolution.

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