Journal of Legal Pluralism and Unofficial Law

(1999) JLP 44: 53-71


The Impact of Working in Two Worlds and its Effect on Navajo

Police Officers


Larry A. Gould




This paper reports on the link between Navajo Police Officers' feelings of spirituality and the manner in which they tend to enforce European-based law. The enforcement behavior of Navajo Police Officers is used as indicators of the intensity of their feelings concerning the usefulness of traditional versus European-based forces of social control. The underlying assumption being tested is that self-determination is not only a state of law but a state of psychological being. Previous research suggests that a link exists between the Navajo Officers' depth of feeling of spirituality and the officers' attitude toward the effectiveness of the traditional methods of social control, particularly peacemaking as it has been reintroduced to the Navajo Nation. A snowball method of sample development was used to select officers for intensive interviews. The findings suggest that the officers' feelings of spiritual connectedness to their culture is inversely related to the strictness of their enforcement of European-based laws. In other words, the more spiritual the office, the less likely the office is to rely solely on European-based laws, and the greater the reliance on other methods of problem-solving.