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Missing and Murdered Indigenous People report identifies challenges, recommends solutions

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Posted at 11:53 AM, Nov 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-24 11:40:42-05

BOISE, Idaho — Idaho is taking steps to better understand and address the number of missing and murdered indigenous people in the state.

"It's pretty hard to find someone who is not affected by this issue," Legislative affairs director for the Coeur d'Alene tribe, Tyrel Stevensen, said. "It's something that's deeply personal. It's very real for the folks that live in these communities.

House Concurrent Resolution 33 passed the Legislature in 2020 and declared the issue of missing and murdered indigenous people as a crisis. It also designates May 5 as a day of awareness. The resolution called for research on the issue, which resulted in HCR33 Report: Missing and Murdered Indigenous People.

The report was conducted by Lane Gillespie and Melanie Fillmore. Gillespie is a a professor in Boise State University's School of Public Service criminal justice program and Fillmore is a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe of South Dakota and Public Policy and Administration PhD candidate in the BSU School of Public Service.

According to the report, a disproportionate percentage of the missing people in Idaho are indigenous.

The facts outlined in the report include:

  • Idaho's average missing persons rate is about 10.59 per 100,000 people. The average rate for Indigenous persons in Idaho is 18.99 per 100,000 people.
  • The percentage of Idaho's missing persons that identify as Indigenous are as much as 2.1 times their proportion of the population.
  • Approximately 63% of Idaho’s Indigenous missing persons have been missing for more than 1 year.
  • About 75% of Idaho's Indigenous missing persons are female, which is more than double the number of Idaho's non-indigenous missing persons who are female (28.8%).
  • 50% of Idaho's Indigenous missing persons went missing as adults and 50% went missing as kids. Among non-Indigenous missing persons, 61.5% went missing as adults 33.5% went missing as kids.
  • There are an average of 81.6 Indigenous missing persons entries in the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) each year. Entries for Indigenous missing persons are an average of 3.39% of all annual missing persons entries in Idaho.
  • In 2020, NCIC entries for Indigenous persons were 3.38% of total entries in Idaho, compared to 1.76% of total entries nationwide.

Apart from the data, the team who created the report did interviews with stakeholders to identify problems and possible solutions. One of the most prominent findings from the report was the need for collaboration between agencies.

"Some of the things that were important for us to understand is how are agencies taking data? Where does that data go? How does it get processed? And there is a lot of variation in the ways that agencies approach that," Melanie Fillmore said.

The report lays out that it's not just tribal police or Idaho State Police involved in missing persons cases and who exactly is involved depends on a few factors.

"It's not just simply location that is determining jurisdiction, but it is also the racial identities of the suspect or of the person who may have been involved in criminal activity," Gillespie said.

Fillmore said where tribal members live can also make this complex.

"There's so many other tribal community members from other tribes across the United State that live on different reservations too so keeping track of that data too is also complex," she said.

The report also provides recommendations for the state moving forward.

"A single unified policy doesn't work. Like communities need that flexibility to be able to respond per jurisdiction and really address those specific challenges that are really identified by individual communities," Fillmore said.

The report does note there are some recommendations that would have impact statewide.

Recommendations include:

  • Exploring avenues to expand the capacity of tribal law enforcement
  • Enhance access to case information between agencies
  • Move toward consistent policies and standard operating procedures in missing persons and homicide cases involving tribal and non-tribal jurisdiction
  • Enhance data collection, data sharing and data accuracy
  • Enhance the capacity of the Idaho Missing Persons Clearinghouse
  • Expand community education and resource awareness
  • Engage in research on causes of MMIP that can inform policy and response

Some next steps are already being taken.

The Idaho Criminal Justice commission created a missing and murdered indigenous persons subcommittee to explore further actions. Their next meeting is December 13.

"The national Operation Lady Justice has released several distinct approaches for tribal communities including resource tool kits for tribal communities to increase either community response plans—so again incorporating tribal or county domestic violence service programming to address service provision for families who experience this," Fillmore said.