FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. -- With a gray handlebar mustache that hangs down over most of his mouth, McDonald “Mac” Rominger looks like a cowboy. And he’s seen enough brutality in his 30-plus years in law enforcement to earn that rugged description. He runs the FBI office in northern Arizona and spends a lot of time on the reservations.
I recently had the opportunity to talk with Rominger. I pestered him with questions about Indian Country crime for almost an hour. Sometimes it’s difficult for reporters to get unlimited access to the FBI. But Rominger says he’s proud of his team of officers and the long hours they put into their jobs.
He said he and his officers also deal with a lot of communication problems. Some people they contact on the reservation don’t have phones or their cell service is spotty so an officer might drive hours across the Navajo Nation, which is the size of West Virginia, only to find no one home.
A well-publicized 2010 Government Accountability Office study showed U.S. Attorneys declined to prosecute half of Indian Country cases. Rominger takes issue with that report saying it’s not just Indian Country. Other offices have trouble gathering sufficient evidence, especially with sexual assault cases.
Because there are fewer officers on Indian Country I asked him if he thought there is a perception that criminals can get away with murder and other crimes on the reservation. He said the public's perception is different than the tribal members' view.