Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and People Task Force. In 2021, the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and People (MMIWP) Task Force was convened in the Office of the Attorney General (AGO). The Task Force was tasked to review the laws and policies pertaining to missing and murdered indigenous women and people and to develop related recommendations to the Governor and the Legislature. In 2022, the Task Force was established in the AGO, pursuant to the passage of the 2022 supplemental operating budget.
In August 2022, the Task Force released an interim report which contained findings, data, and recommendations.
National Missing and Unidentified Persons System. The National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) is a national information clearinghouse and resource center for missing, unidentified, and unclaimed persons cases across the United States. NamUs is funded and administered by the National Institute of Justice.
Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and People Task Force. General. The Task Force is codified under the AGO.
Task Force Membership. The Task Force's members include:
Meetings. The legislative members shall convene the initial meeting of the Task Force by the end of 2023. The Task Force must meet at least two times annually, and convene one summit annually.
Task Force Duties. The Task Force must review laws and policies relating to missing and murdered American Indian and Alaska Native people. The Task Force must review and develop recommendations for assessing issues related to violence against American Indian and Alaska Native people, including:
The Task Force must also identify and make recommendations for increasing state resources for trainings on culturally attuned best practices for tribal, local, and state law enforcement personnel when working with American Indian and Alaska Native communities.
The Task Force must make recommendations and best practices for collaboration and coordination between law enforcement agencies and federal, state, county, local, and tribal social and health services, and strategies and practices to improve communication and transparency with family members in MMIWP cases. In addition, the Task Force must develop recommendations to support efforts by American Indian and Alaska Native people to address the missing and murdered indigenous women and people crisis.
The Task Force must submit a reports to the Governor and the appropriate committees of the Legislature by December 1, 2023 and June 1, 2025.
Attorney General Duties. The AGO will administer and provide staff support to the Task Force, organize the annual summit, and oversee the development of the Task Force reports.
The AGO must coordinate with the Task Force to create and update a missing and murdered indigenous women and people resource, which must include specific instructions, information, and best practices related to MMIWP cases.
The Task Force and AGO must conduct eight site visits in different locations across the state in collaboration with tribes and native-led organizations.
Reimbursement. Task Force members whose participation in the task force may be hampered by financial hardship may be compensated as provided in RCW 43.03.220. A member shall not receive compensation if the member occupies a full-time position in any federal, Washington State, or Washington local government agency, and receives any compensation for such work that day.
Reauthorization. The Task Force is reauthorized until June 30, 2025.
National Missing and Unidentified Persons System. The sheriff, chief of police, county coroner or county medical examiner, or other law enforcement authority initiating and conducting a missing person investigation must enter the case into NamUs if a reported missing person has not been found within 30 days of the report, or any time the investigating agency suspects that criminal activity caused the victim's disappearance.
The committee recommended a different version of the bill than what was heard. PRO: Native American women face murder rates three times higher than non-Native women. In 2022, nearly 400 indigenous people went missing in the state of Washington. Seattle has more missing or murdered women than any U.S. city. Washington has the second most of any state. The work of bringing home missing family members is far from done. Law enforcement must communicate with families at all stages of the process and make sure they are not just checking off a box in their investigations. All of the recommendations from the MMIWP Task Force should be adopted. This is an important step by Washington to address continued violence against Native people. The creation of an MMIWP resource is especially appreciated to help provide guidance to families navigating all involved systems when missing loved ones. This bill currently codifies the Task Force in the AGO. Many of the Task Force's operational duties may not be best suited to be tasked to the AGO. Some duties should be assigned to another agency such as the Washington State Patrol. There are also proposed changes to the bill to include recommendations from the AGO that have been submitted and approved.
The committee recommended a different version of the bill than what was heard. PRO: Homicide is the sixth leading cause of death for indigenous women and girls. The Native American community should be supported and given the services necessary to ensure higher levels of homicide and missing persons reports are being addressed. The Attorney General's Office is not a law enforcement agency and are not in a position to make recommendations related to law enforcement practices, data, or reporting to law enforcement. Those duties should be assigned to the Washington State Patrol who have a long history of supporting and conducting missing persons investigations.