Today, U.S. Senator Martha McSally (R-AZ) worked to improve Tribal law enforcement recruitment, Tribal access to federal criminal databases, and coordination between federal, state, Tribal, and local law enforcement agencies.
The Bridging Agency Data Gaps & Ensuring Safety (BADGES) for Native Communities Act was introduced by U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-NM), Jon Tester (D-MT), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), and Tina Smith (D-MN)--all members of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.
This bipartisan bill addresses critical public safety needs in Indian Country by addressing federal inefficiencies that hurt Bureau of Indian Affairs law enforcement recruitment and retention, increasing the effectiveness of federal missing persons resources, and giving Tribes and States resources to coordinate responses to the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) crisis.
"Native American communities, particularly indigenous women, face much higher rates of violence versus the national average. Alarmingly, law enforcement officials in Indian Country often lack access to the data and resources necessary to prosecute and prevent these crimes. We must do more to ensure public safety in our Native communities. This is why I am proud to work with my colleagues on the Senate Indian Affairs Committee on legislation to give tribal law enforcement the tools they need by expanding access to federal criminal data bases, streamlining recruitment and retention procedures, and supporting best practices for investigating and prosecuting cases in Indian country," said McSally.
"For too long, poor coordination, limited data, and an unacceptable lack of federal resources have erected enormous barriers to justice all across Indian Country," said Udall. "When public safety programs are underresourced, crimes are underreported and cases go unsolved. Our bill addresses these barriers head on by increasing the efficiency of federal law enforcement programs and providing Tribes and states with the tools they need to ensure that Native communities are safe and strong."
"We've got to do everything we can to end the crisis of violence in our tribal communities and bring its perpetrators to justice. This bipartisan legislation will help do that by improving communication and coordination between agencies, bolstering tribal law enforcement, and empowering tribes to address public safety in Indian Country," said Tester.
"All too often, violent crimes in Native communities go unreported, and many tribal law enforcement do not have enough support to protect their jurisdictions. It's unacceptable that Nevada's tribal communities lack access to federal resources that allow Native people to keep their family, friends and neighbors safe. This legislation marks an important step in improving tribal and federal coordination so that we can protect and strengthen Native communities in Nevada, and throughout the country," said Cortez Masto.
"The safety of all Minnesotans--including people on tribal lands--is critical to communities being able to thrive," said Smith. "I'm glad to see this bill has bipartisan support because we need to take steps--in red counties, blue counties, and everywhere in between--to address the missing and murdered indigenous women crisis, and to increase resources to help keep Native communities safe."
The BADGES for Native Communities Act, which will receive a legislative hearing next week in the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, is supported by a number of Native organizations and Tribes.
"The All Pueblo Council of Governors is pleased to see the enhanced access to data sharing and tribal law enforcement support in the BADGES for Native Communities Act," said Paul Torres, Chairman of the All Pueblo Council of Governors. "For too long, barriers to accessing national crime information have hindered the ability of tribal communities to protect their members. The BADGES Act shines a light on this chronic problem and offers concrete, carefully crafted solutions to advance public safety and interagency law enforcement coordination on cases of interest to tribal nations. The end result will be improved responses to crime and safer tribal communities."
"The DOJ Tribal Access Program is a valuable tool for the Pueblo of Acoma Law Enforcement Services in accessing essential data so that we can better serve and protect our community. Extension of the TAP under the BADGES for Native Communities Act will help ensure that more tribal nations are able to benefit from this exceptional program. Together with other strong provisions in the bill--such as the proposed five-year demonstration program for an in-house BIA background check system--we believe the BADGES Act will contribute to greater public safety across Indian Country. We look forward to exploring ways in which the tools developed under this Act could be used to advance important related issues like tribally-conducted background checks and tribal law enforcement training," said Governor Brian Vallo, Pueblo of Acoma.
"The BADGES Act takes common sense steps to fill gaps in Indian Country criminal data collection and addresses shortfalls in staffing of justice officials on Indian lands that will improve emergency response times," said Butch Blazer, President of the Mescalero Apache Tribe. "The bill improves procedures for federal law enforcement to file and share criminal information, with a focus on the crisis of missing and murdered Native people. By codifying the DOJ TAP program, the bill will ensure that our tribal officers retain access to information that is critical to their safety and to the secure management of our SORNA and foster care programs. We give our strong support for this important bill, and urge Congress to advance the measure as soon as possible."
"On the Navajo Nation, disastrous outcomes occur from failed communications across multiple jurisdictions when coordinating efforts to address reports of missing or murdered indigenous persons on the Navajo Nation. Through this bill, we hope to solve the problems with federal data and reports involving missing Indian people as well as tribal access to that data," Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said. "We express our great appreciation that this bill will address critical public safety needs in Indian Country by bridging agency data gaps and ensuring safety for native communities."
"The Navajo Nation now spans four states and over a dozen counties. With dozens of law enforcement agency partners, responding to cases of Missing and Murdered Diné Relatives requires improved coordination between law enforcement agencies and enhanced data sharing and input in federal databases," said Seth Damon, Speaker of the 24th Navajo Nation Council. "I thank Senator Udall for seeking to address an issue that is all too common across Indian Country."
"The Navajo Nation, like other indigenous nations in the U.S., have grappled with the issue of data collection and analysis. I applaud the efforts of this bill to aid tribes in addressing crime and social issues," said Delegate Amber Kanazbah Crotty. "As any expert may tell you, data is integral to how we view and understand social problems, strategize, and create long-term solutions. As we continue working to bring our Missing and Murdered Diné Relatives home, I appreciate Senator. Udall for taking a step forward to aid indigenous communities. In addition, I would call on the federal government to grant tribes access to how federal agents investigate missing and murdered cases, and to increase transparency through providing us that critical information."
"As a former tribal prosecutor, I am all too familiar with the shortcomings among existing resources for handling missing and murdered persons cases," said Delegate Eugenia Charles Newton, Chair of the Law and Order Committee. "It is critical that the federal government fulfill its obligations to deliver justice for Native Americans by implementing appropriate tools, proven solutions, and innovative programming. By streamlining data sharing processes, strengthening existing resources, and developing new programming, the BADGE Act will empower federal, state, Tribal, and non-profit organizations to design better protocols for addressing the crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous women. Safe communities are the cornerstone of development, and I am confident this bill will begin to provide a clear understanding of all the issues regarding public safety in Indian Country."