Torres introduces bill to further Washington’s efforts regarding missing and murdered Indigenous people

State Sen. Nikki Torres introduced a bill today to continue the Legislature’s efforts to identify the root causes of the shockingly large number of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Washington. She said Senate Bill 5477 is aimed at enacting practical, long-term solutions that address systematic failures in investigating these crimes, holding perpetrators accountable and getting justice for victims.

“Crimes against Indigenous people, especially women and children, have continued to plague our state and our nation,” said Torres, R-Pasco. “Washingtonians are demanding answers, and more importantly, they are rightfully demanding solutions.

“This bill is about continuing the very critical work of the state attorney general’s task force by analyzing the hard data it has collected, identifying solutions and implementing the task force’s recommendations.”

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 Republican Leader John Braun said the issue is one that he and his fellow Republicans are committed to solving, noting it was Republican Rep. Gina Mosbrucker who sponsored House Bill 1713, the 2019 measure aimed at improving law enforcement response to missing and murdered Native American women and House Bill 1571, a 2022 measure providing protections and services for Indigenous persons who are missing, murdered, or survivors of human trafficking.

“I am in full support of Senator Torres and her legislation and appreciate her leadership on one of the most fundamental public-safety concerns in our state,” said Braun, R-Centralia. “It continues the commitment Republicans in the Legislature have shown regarding the safety of Washington’s Indigenous community.”

Torres’ legislation 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.

“We owe it to the families of the missing and murdered to continue the push for justice,” said Torres. “I hope my colleagues in both chambers and on both sides of the aisle will move quickly to advance this bill and put the task force’s recommendations into action.”