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Rocky Boy's Project War Shield takes over Criminal Investigation Department

 


The Chippewa Cree Criminal Investigation Department at Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation has new supervision, with Project War Shield Program Director Gary LaMere Jr. taking over as head of the department.

“My main mission for criminal investigations is going to be the main mission I’ve carried out throughout my career,” he said.

Project War Shield started about three years ago with a discussion between Chippewa Cree Business Committee members about the growing drug problem on the reservation. That discussion led to the Business Committee passing a resolution creating Project War Shield to coordinate tribal investigations on drug issues with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Montana.

LaMere was hired in December to head the program.

In the last week of April, the Business Committee put the War Shield Program over the entire Criminal Investigation Department, to work on all federal crime investigations with LaMere the supervisor of the department, he said.

LaMere, who was raised on Rocky Boy’s and Fort Belknap Indian reservations, has 21 years of law enforcement experience. He started with the Fort Belknap Police Department, where he worked for 17 years as a special agent investigating major crimes that took place on the reservation. Then he worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, was a special agent in Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation, the Crow Agency and was a chief of police in New Mexico. LaMere also was the regional agent in charge of the BIA division for drug enforcement.

In that time he specialized in child abuse investigations, sexual assault investigations and homicides, he said.

He said that the Criminal Investigation Department will focus on cases of child abuse, sexual assault, domestic violence, homicides, missing or murdered indigenous people, human trafficking and a number of other violent or federal crimes including drug offenses. He added that the department will also begin investigating white collar crimes, such as fraud.

“I have my goals. I have my mission,” he said.

The mission is to make sure every allegation of a federal felony gets investigated, tracked and prosecuted, he said. He added that he also wants to assure victims’ rights and assistance to crime victims, and push federal drug cases to federal court.

“It’s pretty much what the basis of my career has been,” he said, stressing providing assistance. “Get justice for those victims of violent crimes.”

He said that bringing federal drug crimes to court may help in lowering the occurrence of violent crimes.

“I’ve seen it before, in being a chief of police in a community, that violent crime rate will drop,” he added.

The Criminal Investigation Department will be working closely with the tribal justice system, so all the departments are on the same page, as well as working with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, LaMere said. He added that the reservation has a good working relationship with the FBI and he is a big supporter of maintaining the working relationship and full cooperation.

This month, Gov. Steve Bullock signed into law House Bill 21, known as Hanna’s Act, to help efforts to find missing persons, and LaMere said that the department will be utilizing the resources provided in this bill to address missing and murdered indigenous people.

Missing and murdered indigenous people is a nationwide crisis, and he wants to create a team of people who will be assigned to address any report of missing persons immediately, he said.

He added that missing persons occasionally overlap with the issue of human trafficking, although that is not always the case.

Human trafficking is still a serious problem in the state, LaMere said, and a number of people in the state government are focused on the issue. He added that Hanna’s Act will have the state Department of Justice hiring a person this year whose main focus will be coordinating efforts to address the issue.

On a local side, LaMere said he will pay specific attention to training investigators on these violent crimes. He said that he will be seeking out training in both the region and nation to send investigators to.

Investigators will be trained in cases such as child abuse and homicide, he said. The training involves crime scene investigations, autopsies, interviews of suspects and everything concerning these crimes.

“They’re going to be doing a little bit of traveling this next year,” he said, adding that the investigators will be leaving for one training course within the next couple of weeks.

He said that he has requested $1,000 to find proper training for the investigators.

Since he has stepped into the position of supervisory lead for the Criminal Investigation Department, he has been reviewing the past criminal investigations unit, performing inspections, inventory, case files and previous cases. LaMere said. After he has completed his review, he will write up a report to give to his supervisors to address the needs of the department.

“Just reviewing everything from the top down with the program,” he said,

LaMere said that after reviewing the whole program he will also make some recommendations. He said he foresees some changes.

“What I’m really looking at is what’s working and what’s not working when it comes to the program,” he said.

The department has two investigators, he said. He said he has talked with Chippewa Cree Police Department about bringing in someone local who is interested in investigations to train up to be an investigator, as well as working on the patrol side.

“I would love to see somebody that’s young and ambitious and wants to be an investigator, and I would love to give them the training to do that,” he said. “… You have to want it. It’s a very tough job.”

 

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