BILLINGS — Two federal agencies penalized the Fort Peck tribal law enforcement agency for failing to repay $1.6 million in federal police money used for other purposes and for employing officers without background checks and adequate training, The Billings Gazette has learned.
The Department of Justice designated the tribes as high-risk in December 2015, after the tribes failed to repay $1.6 million that federal auditors in 2006 determined had been used for disallowed expenditures. The Gazette reports the tribe was not allowed to receive one type of federal policing grant for three years.
The Bureau of Indian Affairs made its high-risk designation a year ago after finding police and jail officers hadn’t undergone proper background checks and jail staff hadn’t been trained at the right law enforcement academy. The sanctions included additional fiscal oversight and the possibility the BIA would take over the tribe’s police and jail programs. The BIA had run both programs until the Assiniboine and Sioux tribes took over in 1996.
“We have already resolved everything and are moving forward,” Tribal Chairman Floyd Azure said in an email.
The DOJ sanction meant the tribe could not receive supplemental police money under the Community Oriented Policing Services, or COPS, which pays for training, equipment and new staff. The annual award varies, but in the last three years the tribe was eligible for the grants, it received a total of $2 million, a DOJ spokesman said.
Fort Peck staff that handle DOJ grants were required to complete a financial management course. Four staffers have done so and the tribes are on track to be taken off the high-risk list in December, DOJ spokesman Wyn Hornbuckle said.
BIA spokeswoman Nedra Darling says the tribal law enforcement officers have undergone background checks and correctional officers have since been certified by the Indian Police Academy in Artesia, New Mexico.
Documents obtained by the Gazette showed a Poplar auto body shop owned by Azure was paid for more than $51,000 for work on tribal vehicles between October 2009 and September 2016.
Azure declined to comment on whether that was a conflict of interest, but said the newspaper’s “information about me is wrong.” He was tribal chairman from 2009 to 2013 and was elected again in October 2015.tagging
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