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ON THE ROAD AGAIN
A Day in the Life in Indian Country

09/17/07

FBI Special Agent Doug Klein talks about a case with Special Agent Mike Cuny of the Bureau of Indian Affairs on the Crow reservation in Montana
FBI Special Agent Doug Klein, right, talks about a case with Special Agent Mike Cuny of the Bureau of Indian Affairs on the Crow reservation in Montana.

Part 2 of our continuing series.

It’s 7 o’clock in the morning in Billings, Montana, when Doug Klein strolls into a local shop and—fully aware of the law enforcement cliché—orders three-and-a-half dozen doughnuts to go. Nearly an hour later, he’s entering the Crow Indian reservation, ready to start another day in Indian Country.

Klein, a special agent out of our Billings office, spends more time in his truck than in his office, logging up to 400 miles a day. He averages about a day a week in Billings; the rest of the time he’s on the road, traveling the vast reservations (the Crow reservation, for example, is nearly three times the size of Rhode Island) to interview witnesses, victims, and suspects—all part of our responsibility for investigating serious crimes on Indian reservations.

Klein’s dusty blue truck testifies to the solitary life of special agents in Indian Country. Stowed inside are a raid jacket, a bullet-proof vest, and enough evidence equipment to process a large crime scene. He has two police radios—vital equipment, since he’s often called to crime scenes directly by tribal police or dispatchers. An assault weapon rattles in its roof rack.

“You really have to be more than a good investigator out here. You have to be part-historian, part-sociologist, and even part-genealogist. You have to know who’s related to whom, whether someone’s status in a tribe will complicate your case, what the history of the various tribes is and the differences between them. We lean on our tribal partners as much as we can, but the more we truly grasp the realities here, the better.”

- Special Agent Doug Klein, on working in Indian Country

Because of the vast territory and complex interplay of law enforcement in Indian Country, Klein works hard to maintain good working relationships with tribal officers and investigators from the Bureau of Indian Affairs or BIA. The doughnuts help.

His first stop this morning is at a converted drive-through bank where the Crow tribal police and the BIA’s criminal investigator work. He drops off a dozen of the doughnuts in the dispatch office and meets with BIA criminal investigator Mike Cuny to discuss several cases. Then it’s off to Northern Cheyenne police headquarters in Lame Deer, 45 miles down the road. Klein doles out more doughnuts in the command room, then checks the jail roster to see if he wants to interview anyone.

Twenty miles later, Klein trolls along unnamed streets in Rabbit Town looking for a young sexual assault victim. Junked out cars litter yards and streets, and windows are boarded up on many houses.

Back in Lame Deer for lunch, a tribal officer tells Klein about a recent liquor bust that netted 99 bottles of hard liquor, some guns, and eagle feathers. The officers talk about cases, perpetrators, and victims. Alcoholism ravages the isolated population, and “meth” is a huge drug problem that is only slowly abating. Child sex abuse is rampant.

That afternoon, Klein and Cuny drive to a run-down home overlooking a junkyard, looking for a sexual assault suspect. They’re told he isn’t home. Cuny calls the assistant U.S. attorney in Billings to see if she has any helpful leads, before he and Klein part company.

Klein finally calls it a day after eleven hours. He won’t sleep long: his first call the next morning—a report of a sexual assault—comes in at 4 a.m. And so it goes.

LINK:
- FINDING ANSWERS: A Day in the Life in Indian Country, Part 1