Graduate Thesis Or Dissertation


Native American Policing : Leading in a Conflicting and Opposing U.S. Legal System Public Deposited

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  • The purpose of this multi-case study was to explore the stories and lived experiences of Native American police chiefs who have faced the systemic conflicts and challenges created between Native American tribal policing and an opposing U.S. legal system. It sought to understand the essence of tribal police chiefs’ experiences in working within the U.S. legal system and the extent of conflict that has been created for them. It further sought to examine how tribal police chiefs navigate and provide effective leadership as they work to maintain tribal culture, traditions, and sovereignty within their departments. This research is of significance because there has been a lack of research directed toward developing tribal police leadership programs that assist police chiefs in navigating through a conflicting and opposing U.S. legal system. Although there have been limited studies on tribal law enforcement, those studies have primarily focused on quantitative data related to crime statistics in Indian Country. This research study gives tribal law enforcement education and training practitioners, and advocacy group’s direction in creating tribal leadership trainings that address gaps that exist in Native American police training programs. The following two questions were used to guide the research: (1) How are U.S. legal system challenges affecting tribal culture, traditions, and sovereignty, and how do tribal police chiefs address them? (2) How do tribal police chiefs maintain and/or support tribal traditions and culture within the tribal police department despite working within contradictory, opposing, or restrictive U.S. laws and regulations? This research design followed a multi-case study methodology focusing on seven Native American police chiefs who work in departments located in Indian Country across the United States. A multi-case study approach provided an opportunity to compare and contrast the challenges that exist for tribal police chiefs who must work under the mandated U.S. legal system. This research study used five primary data collection methods: (a) in-depth, open-ended interviews; (b) journaling; (c) peer review; (d) member checking; and (e) the review of related documents and archival records. The collection of data resulted in the emergence of following four dominant themes: 1. The U.S. legal system has had a significant influence on the operations of today's tribal police departments and their adherence to tribal culture, tradition, and sovereignty. 2. Tribal police chiefs and their departments have unequal police power and authority in Indian Country. 3. Jurisdictional restrictions created by the U.S. legal system have created complex, confusing, and challenging conflicts for tribal police chiefs. 4. The U.S. legal system has created an environment of bias and restrictive policing practices for tribal police chiefs and their departments. This study revealed that Native American police chiefs are highly dedicated professionals working under an unequal set of legal constraints and restrictive police powers. To allow them to fully administer the leadership duties and responsibilities expected of them by their tribes and peers, tribal police chiefs need access to training and support systems that will assist them in understanding how to navigate through complex challenges surrounding legal issues and tribal policing power and legal authority. This research provides clarity for educators, trainers, and tribal law enforcement advocates who are seeking to understand and develop tribal leadership training programs for tribal police chiefs. This research provides insights into the multitude of existing legal system problems that currently are not being addressed through tribal leadership training and education. Hopefully this research will add to the body of knowledge on tribal police leadership and encourage academic and training professionals to actively pursue training initiatives that will support tribal police chiefs as they continue to lead within their tribal police departments.
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Embargo date range
  • 2017-08-17 to 2018-02-27



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