Friday, January 31, 2020

Bipartisan group files legislation to address missing, murdered Native Americans


Bipartisan Legislation to Address Missing and Murdered Indigenous People Announced

OKLAHOMA CITY -- A bipartisan group of House lawmakers filed legislation for the second half of the 57th Legislature to address Oklahoma’s missing and murdered indigenous people.

House Bill 3892, authored by Rep. Merelyn Bell (D-Norman), would require law enforcement to collect detailed biological information about the missing child, the person reporting the child missing, and the alleged suspect(s).

“Too many Native American families in our state have suffered loss and trauma when a loved one went missing or was murdered, especially when that loved one is a child,” Bell said. “We must be intentional about preventing the next child from being ripped from their family and community.”

House Bill 3893, authored by Bell, would allow for the creation of an electronic repository of student photographs to ensure there is a current photo of the child for law enforcement to use in helping locate them when they are identified as missing.

“In missing person cases, every second counts,” Bell said. “The creation of a photo database will allow law enforcement to obtain data critical to their success in locating missing persons in a timely manner.”

House Bill 3345, or Ida’s Law, authored by Rep. Mickey Dollens (D-OKC),  outlines the creation of the Office of Liaison under the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons. The Office of Liaison will consist of a missing person specialist with significant experience working alongside tribal communities.

“HB3345 is in honor of Ida Beard,” Dollens said. “Ida has been missing since June  30, 2015. Beard is a citizen on the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes and her missing person case remains open to this day. Ida is one of many Native American women and girls across the country that has vanished without a trace and continues to vanish at alarming rates.”

House Bill 2847, authored by Rep. Daniel Pae (R-Lawton), creates a Red Alert System through the Department of Public Safety for when indigenous people are reported missing.

House Bill 2848, authored by Rep. Pae, would require law enforcement officers to take an additional hour of CLEET training that would focus solely on cultural competency and sensitivity training when interacting with missing indigenous people and their families.

“Like most issues, one of the biggest barriers to helping with the crisis of missing and murdered indigenous people is education,” Pae said. “My bills deal with educating the public when indigenous people go missing and educating law enforcement about the needs of this community. I appreciate my colleagues for shining a light on this issue, and I look forward to working with many more to get this legislation across the finish line.”

Dollens, who held an interim study on MMIP over the summer, feels confident that this session will yield results for the Native American community.

“My work on this issue began with a phone call from one of my constituents,” Dollens said. “Since then, we have added more lawmakers from both parties to this fight. I am hopeful that our momentum will continue, and we will be able to provide our native friends and families with both resources and peace of mind.”

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