OLYMPIA, Wash. — A bill to establish a protocol for how Washington law enforcement agencies handle reports of missing Native people passed the Washington Senate and awaits the governor's signature.
Rep. Gina Mosbrucker, R-Goldendale, is the main sponsor of House Bill 1713, which establishes two liaison positions within the Washington State Patrol to work with family members when missing persons reports are filed. It also creates a task force that will bring together tribal representatives and law enforcement to address how such cases are handled.
Senators approved the bill Friday, 41-0.
Also under the bill, the State Patrol will develop a best-practices protocol for law enforcement response to missing persons reports on and off reservations.
“When someone becomes missing, all too often there hasn’t been a process to get help for families. Tribal members have reached out to tribal police, city and county officials, and the State Patrol, but no one could tell them what could be done,” Mosbrucker said in a news release.
“The tribal liaisons will be there to help, and with a protocol in place, investigations can follow through to the completion of the case.”
In addition, the Governor’s Office of Indian Affairs would be required to provide the State Patrol with government-to-government training.
Mosbrucker’s bill builds upon legislation she sponsored last year that brought the State Patrol together with federally recognized tribes, tribal law enforcement, urban Indian organizations and the Governor’s Office of Indian Affairs to study the issue of missing Native American women in Washington.
It established a task force to gather data and recommend strategies to address the disappearances.
State Patrol Capt. Monica Alexander and Craig Bill, executive director of the Governor’s Office of Indian Affairs, led meetings in Yakima, Toppenish and throughout the state. Mosbrucker said there was enough information gathered for her to proceed with legislation to tackle ways to address the problem before getting the final report from Alexander in June.
- This story will be updated.