While people in rural places generally have less crime, American Indians and communities are an anomaly, by sufferingfrom unusually high rates of criminal victimization despite being predominantly rural.One element with thisheightened vulnerability to crime is the historic under-policing of Indian reservations and communities. This paper examines the policing of Indian communities, first by tracing the historical development of Indian tribal police in the United States overthe past two centuries, which shapes the legal-social context for presentday Indian police agencies. Next the paper identifies three major factorslimiting the implementation of effective police forces by Indian communities: (1) legal limitations on the policing authority of tribal governments as historical vestiges; (2) cultural conflicts between traditional Native American values and modern bureaucratic policing practices; and (3) ecological limitations on tribal police from the extremely rural settings in which most Indian communities are located.

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