This brief profiles the Victim Specialists Program within the Pennington County (South Dakota) Sheriff’s Office (PCSO), highlighting its work with Native American crime victims and its incorporation of culturally competent practices, with the intent of providing promising practices and lessons learned for Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) teams to consider when developing or modifying similar strategies within their districts.
In August 2016, the PCSO used a Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) sub-grant award administered through the South Dakota Department of Public Safety. The award was used to hire two full-time victim specialists, who work within the investigative Division of the PCSO, supporting approximately 15 investigators. The VOCA grant stipulates that the victim specialists provide services to victims of serious violent crime. Although representing only about 10 percent of the Pennington County population, Native Americans compose 45-50 percent of victims served by the victim specialists. Cultural competence is the feature of the PCSO victim services emphasized in this case study. “Cultural competence” is defined in this case study as “the ability of an individual or organization to interact effectively with people of different cultures.” This includes drawing on knowledge of culturally based values, traditions, customs, language, and behavior in planning, implementing, and evaluating service activities. All personnel of the PCSO law enforcement division have attended training on cultural competence in the past year, and PCSO victim specialists attend annual training that addresses challenges distinctive to serving Native American crime victims and survivors. Among the promising practices described in this case study are partnering and collaborating with community-based organizations that specialize in serving Native Americans and Inviting local Native American community members to provide training based on their knowledge of Native-American cultural values. 1 table and 15 references