Attorney General William P. Barr Launches National Strategy to Address Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons
Federal Prosecutors in Oklahoma and the FBI to Enhance Investigations into Missing Persons and Develop Protocols for Law Enforcement, Improvements to Data Collection and Analyses, Training, and Technical Assistance
OKLAHOMA CITY – Attorney General William P. Barr today launched a national strategy to address missing and murdered Native Americans. The Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons (MMIP) Initiative places MMIP coordinators in U.S. Attorney’s offices in 11 states, including Oklahoma, who will develop protocols for a more coordinated law enforcement response to missing cases. The plan also calls for the deployment of the FBI’s most advanced response capabilities when needed, improved data collection and analysis, and training to support local response efforts.
"American Indian and Alaska Native people suffer from unacceptable and disproportionately high levels of violence, which can have lasting impacts on families and communities. Native American women face particularly high rates of violence, with at least half suffering sexual or intimate-partner violence in their lifetime. Too many of these families have experienced the loss of loved ones who went missing or were murdered,” said Attorney General William P. Barr. "This important initiative will further strengthen the federal, state, and tribal law enforcement response to these continuing problems."
"The FBI recognizes the violence that tribal communities face and is fully committed to working with our federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement partners to provide support to those impacted by these crimes," said FBI Director Christopher Wray. "We are dedicated to delivering justice and to the FBI’s mission to protect all the people we serve. We reaffirm our focus on allocating resources to serve Native American needs."
In Oklahoma, the MMIP coordinator will be based at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Northern District of Oklahoma but will directly assist all three U.S. Attorneys’ Offices in the state.
"Our Pledge of Allegiance ends with the phrase ‘with liberty and justice for all.’ Attorney General Barr’s Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons plan furthers that ideal," said Trent Shores, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Oklahoma. "I’m proud to see this Justice Department including Native American victims as a crucial part of our violent crime reduction strategy."
"The joint MMIP coordinator will maximize the collaborative efforts of the three Oklahoma United States Attorney’s Offices as we work toward the shared goal of ensuring appropriate response to missing and murdered indigenous people in Oklahoma," said Brian J. Kuester, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Oklahoma. "Our MMIP coordinator will undoubtedly find great support from our federal, tribal, state, and local law enforcement partners and non-governmental service organizations who understand and appreciate that working together we can and will enhance public safety in Indian Country."
"I am pleased to leverage our great working relationship with our sister U.S. Attorney’s Offices in Oklahoma to address violence in Indian Country," said Timothy J. Downing, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Oklahoma. "Together, we will use this new resource to protect Native Americans throughout the state."
"The Cherokee Nation has held strong partnerships with the U.S. Attorney’s offices in the Northern and Eastern Districts, which is essential for the protection of our tribal communities and prevention of missing and murdered Native Americans in Indian Country," Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin, Jr. said. "We know these new efforts to enhance law enforcement coordination will improve data sharing and help reduce the violence against our native people"
"The State of Oklahoma welcomes the Department of Justice’s focus on reducing violence in Indian Country," said Lisa J. Billy, Oklahoma’s Secretary of Native American Affairs. "These resources represent a meaningful investment in ensuring safety for vulnerable members of native communities in our state. I am grateful to the U.S. Attorneys for their commitment to Indian Country."
The strategy has three parts.
Establish MMIP coordinators: The Department of Justice is investing an initial $1.5 million to hire 11 MMIP coordinators in 11 states to serve with all U.S. Attorney’s offices in those states, and others who request assistance. The states are Alaska, Arizona, Montana, Oklahoma, Michigan, Utah, Nevada, Minnesota, Oregon, New Mexico, and Washington state. MMIP coordinators will work closely with federal, tribal, state and local agencies to develop common protocols and procedure for responding to reports of missing or murdered indigenous people. The first MMIP coordinator is already on board in Montana.
Specialized FBI Rapid Deployment Teams: The strategy will bring needed tools and resources to law enforcement. Upon request by a tribal, state, or local law enforcement agency the FBI will provide expert assistance based upon the circumstances of a missing indigenous persons case. FBI resources and personnel which may be activated to assist with cases include: Child Abduction Rapid Deployment (CARD) teams, Cellular Analysis Support Teams, Evidence Response Teams, Cyber Agents for timely analysis of digital evidence/social media, Victim Services Division Response Teams, and others. MMIP coordinators will assist in developing protocols.
Comprehensive Data Analysis: The department will perform in-depth analysis of federally supported databases and analyze data collection practices to identify opportunities to improve missing persons data and share the results of this analysis with our partners in this effort.
More broadly, the MMIP Initiative will involve a coordinated effort by more than 50 U.S. Attorneys on the Attorney General’s Native American Issues Subcommittee (NAIS), the FBI, and the Office of Tribal Justice, with support from the Office of Justice Programs (OJP) and the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW).
Today’s announcement follows the August NAIS meeting in New Mexico and OVW listening session in Michigan, where Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons and violence against women in Indian country were prevalent topics of discussion by U.S. Attorneys, OVW officials, and tribal representatives.