Today, President Obama and OMB Deputy Director Heather Higginbottom joined Interior Secretary Ken Salazar at the 2011 White House Tribal Nations Conference. The President celebrated change in several areas, including making Indian Country a safer place to live. Deputy Director Higginbottom commended Interior for its tremendous work to reduce crime on targeted Indian reservations. That change is thanks to the success of the Safe Indian Communities initiative, led by Secretary Salazar. This initiative reduced violent crime a remarkable 35 percent across four Indian reservations with high crime rates.
Almost two years ago, in the FY2011 budget, Secretary Salazar set an agency high priority performance goal to reduce crime at least 5 percent on four reservations: Rocky Boy’s Reservation in Montana, home to the Chippewa-Cree Tribe; the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s reservation in North and South Dakota; the Mescalero Apache Tribe’s reservation in New Mexico; and the Shoshone and Arapahoe Tribes’ Wind River Reservation in Wyoming. When the goal was set, most considered it to be very ambitious; Interior had never before adopted a crime reduction goal and does not control most of the factors affecting the crime rate.
To support crime-reducing efforts on the reservations, Interior set up a computer-aided dispatch and records management system to collect and analyze crime data, identify crime trends, and report criminal offenses. The data and trend analyses are used to allocate resources and continuously evaluate law enforcement and community policing strategies.
The pilot program vividly demonstrates how transformative it can be when an agency adopts a goal to improve an outcome of great concern to a community, measures more consistently and frequently, regularly reviews the data, and engages the community to make progress on the goal.
The success rested on a comprehensive strategy involving community policing, tactical deployment, and critical interagency and intergovernmental partnerships between the FBI, Department of Justice, and the tribal police departments. The number of Indian country and DOJ officers on the ground has doubled and the number of law enforcement officers who have received basic training has increased ten-fold. Interior also supported officer-initiated programs to help victims and families and programs to strengthen community relationships with law enforcement. Success also was due to community-focused innovations, such as the one developed by Brenda Gardipee, Chairperson on Rocky Boy's Reservation, and recognized by the U.S. Attorney for the District of Montana that places greater emphasis on early intervention for families, particularly aimed at reducing juvenile delinquency and criminal behavior.
Interior Department’s success on the Safe Indian Communities initiative shows what can be done when an agency sets a concrete goal, measures progress regularly, and conducts frequent data-driven reviews. The Administration is working with all Cabinet members and agency leaders to set a few clear and ambitious, but achievable, near-term goals, measure and analyze progress frequently, and run regular data-driven reviews on them.
Shelley Metzenbaum is Associate Director of Performance and Personnel Management