Michael Harrigan, Special Agent, Farmington Resident Agency
Michael Harrington, a special agent in the Farmington Resident Agency, describes the FBI's role in Indian Country.
In Indian Country, you know, the reservations are considered independent entities. And the federal government’s authority through the Major Crimes Act is what gives us the ability to go in there and investigate crimes.
But we don’t just go in there an investigate crimes; we work in concert with the criminal investigators from the tribal police. That is key—just finding the scene, the support of the scene. Many times it’s just one single FBI agent out there with a complex scene. He needs the criminal investigators to assist.
We’re very competent in many instances. They actually go out there and conduct interviews, collect evidence along with us. And the patrol officers help secure the scene, locate other witnesses. So it’s a team approach to every crime scene out there.
They’re Navajo. They’re from the society on the reservation, so them being there with us helps us to cut through any type of communication barriers that might be there because of culture. If that does come up, with them being there they can really help us. Because sometimes—one unique thing—is that at times some of the older generation they don’t speak much English. They only speak traditional Navajo. So we have criminal investigators that speak Navajo. So they can ensure that a language barrier doesn’t become a barrier to getting justice done.
Again, if we tried to go out there ourselves, find these addresses, find victims, find witnesses, they just have a unique ability because they’re from the community. They get us right to it, get us right to the scene, give us unique behind-the-scenes reflections—maybe prior complaints against the subject, issues that are going on among the families involved—that makes it so much more efficient for us to do our job that we really couldn’t do it without them.
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