Feds detail work to address crisis of missing Native people

In this May 2019 photo, hundreds form a line on the edge of the Billings, Montana, Rimrocks for an event honoring missing and murdered Indigenous people. (Larry Mayer/The Billings Gazette via AP, File)

The Associated Press

The Trump administration released a report outlining the work of a task force

Michael Balsamo
Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department has hired 11 specialized coordinators to help develop national standards to address the crisis of missing and slain Native American women as concerns mount over the level of violence they face.

The Trump administration released a report this week outlining the work of a task force created under an executive order. The group, which has met with tribal leaders, helped set the groundwork for the standards that will apply to new and unsolved cases of missing or murdered people in Native American communities.

The work is expected to continue for about another year.

The common standards include improving the way law enforcement officials and prosecutors “respond to the high volume of such cases, and to the investigative challenges that might be presented in cases involving female victims,” according to the report.

The task force also has focused on examining data shared among law enforcement agencies and worked with tribal leaders and tribal law enforcement officials to better use federal databases.

(Related: New missing, murdered laws hailed as ‘huge victory’)

“This is not a one size fits all,” said Assistant Attorney General Katie Sullivan, a task force leader. But the emphasis has been “on supporting the victims of crime, in every step of the way,” she said.

The task force is establishing a framework to help connect local and federal law enforcement officials and clear up any jurisdictional issues that could arise in the cases. In some of the sessions, the task force heard “heart-wrenching stories of people have unsolved cases,” Sullivan said.

The coordinators were hired under an initiative announced by Attorney General William Barr during a trip to Montana last year. They are helping develop ways for the Justice Department to address reports of missing indigenous and Native people and improve relationships with tribal leaders and federal prosecutors.

The U.S. Indian Affairs Twitter account posted a tweet and photo of Ivanka Trump visiting an opening of an MMIW cold case office. Trump has received criticism from Native leaders and other groups that the event was phony and a photo op. (Indian Affairs Twitter)
Ivanka Trump headlines the recent opening of an MMIW cold case office in Minnesota (Photo courtesy of Indian Affairs Twitter, File)
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