Bob Ferguson

Photo: Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson

OLYMPIA - On Monday, the Washington State Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and People Task Force issued its first report to the office of Attorney General Bob Ferguson, which included 10 unanimously adopted recommendations to begin addressing gaps in services and response to violence against Indigenous people.

The 25-member Task Force was facilitated to coordinate a statewide response to the urgent crisis of Indigenous people who go missing, are the victims of homicide, or experience other types of gender-based violence in urban and tribal communities. Since its creation, the Task Force has met quarterly and in bi-weekly subcommittee meetings.

Among the recommendations, the Task Force is calling on the Legislature to create and fully fund an MMIWP-focused cold case unit within the Attorney General’s Office. Attorney General Bob Ferguson has said he endorses the recommendation.

“I look forward to honoring the Task Force’s recommendation and working to create an MMIWP cold case unit in my office,” Ferguson said. “If funded, a cold case unit will direct critical resources toward these cases and help address the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women and people.”

10 Task Force recommendations

  1. Establishing a fully funded MMIWP-focused cold case unit within the Attorney General’s Office — the Legislature should establish and fully fund a Cold Case Investigation Unit within the Attorney General’s Office with a focus on MMIWP cold cases.
  2. Standardizing the use of the National Missing & Unidentified Persons System — the Legislature should require all law enforcement agencies to use the National Missing & Unidentified Persons System.
  3. Expanding the scope of MMIWP data and research to all genders — the data and research team should expand its scope to understand how American Indian and Alaska Native people experience violence across the gender spectrum, including women and girls, men and boys, and the LGBTQ2S community.
  4. Working with law enforcement agencies to expand coordination — the Task Force shall develop best practices for law enforcement agencies and for social and health services to improve their collaboration, as well as collaboration and coordination with federal, state, county, local and tribal social and health services.
  5. Promoting inclusive language — community service and resource programs should utilize inclusive language that reflects the experiences of MMIWP families and survivors.
  6. Improving communication and transparency in MMIWP cases — all law enforcement agencies should identify and implement strategies and practices to improve communication and transparency with family members in MMIWP cases.
  7. Updating the Missing Person’s Resource — the Attorney General’s Office shall update and re-issue the Missing Person’s Resource.
  8. Reducing or waiving fees for MMIWP public events — public agencies should consider adopting policies to waive or reduce fees for parks, permitting fees and other costs, and reduce administrative burdens associated with hosting large events such as MMIWP marches, rallies, vigils and memorials.
  9. Continuing to support sovereignty and self-determination — the Task Force will continue to provide consultation to federally recognized tribes in support of sovereignty and self-determination.
  10. Extending the MMIWP Task Force timeline through June 30, 2025 — the Task Force is currently only authorized and funded through 2023. Task Force members believe meaningfully addressing this crisis will take more time.