Torres bill on missing and murdered Indigenous people passes Senate

Today the state Senate passed Sen. Nikki Torres’ measure implementing the recommendations of the Washington state Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and People task force. The bill is part of the Legislature’s efforts to identify the root causes of the shockingly large number of Native Americans who have turned up missing or murdered in Washington.

“Crimes against Indigenous people, especially women and children, have continued to plague our state and our nation,” said Torres, R-Pasco. “Despite making up only 2% percent of our population, 136 indigenous people in our state have been identified as missing by the Washington State Patrol. That’s as of January. This is unacceptable.

“We owe it to these families to not only identify solutions to this ongoing problem, but to implement those solutions as quickly as possible. That’s what this bill is about.”

According to a 2021 report from the National Congress of American Indians, Native American women face murder rates almost three times those of non-Native women, with an alarming 80% or more having experienced violence.

Senate Bill 5477, which passed the Senate with unanimous support, would implement recommendations identified in the task force’s August 2022 interim report. Under the Torres bill, the MMIWP task force would be extended through June 30, 2025. It would be required to develop additional recommendations and best practices for collaboration and coordination between law-enforcement agencies and social and health services, and to improve communication and transparency with family members in cases involving missing and murdered indigenous women and people.

The bill would also require law-enforcement agencies to enter a missing-person case into the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System if a missing person has not been found within 30 days of the report or if an investigating agency suspects criminal activity to be the cause of the missing person’s disappearance.

SB 5477 now goes to the House of Representatives for its consideration.