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Navajo Request Federal Funding To Hire Coroners

The Navajo Nation Council said it's working with Congress to fund a medical examiners department. If successful, the tribe will be the first in the country with such a department.

The Navajo Law and Order Committee said the tribe's criminal investigators have been serving as coroners. And it said they're already overworked. The criminal investigators have been devoting about 40% of their time to handle deaths.

This has become a problem for recruiting criminal investigators. They turn down the job knowing they'd have to take on the responsibilities of a coroner as well.

As crime on the Navajo Nation has increased in recent years so has the need for full-time criminal investigators. In 2018,  U.S. attorneys declined to prosecute 37%of the Indian Country cases they received. They say they dropped most of the cases for a lack of evidence.

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Laurel Morales was a Fronteras Desk reporter in Flagstaff from 2011 to 2020.