U.S. Senator Tina Smith, Bipartisan Group of Indian Affairs Committee Senators Introduce Bill to Address Law Enforcement, Public Safety Needs in Native Communities

WASHINGTON, D.C. [06/14/2019]—U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.) and a bipartisan group of her colleagues on the Senate Indian Affairs Committee—led by Vice Chairman Tom Udall (N.M)—this week introduced the Bridging Agency Data Gaps & Ensuring Safety (BADGES) for Native Communities Act, which would address critical public safety needs in Indian Country.

The bill aims to address federal inefficiencies that hurt Bureau of Indian Affairs law enforcement recruitment and retention, increase the effectiveness of federal missing persons resources, and give Tribes and States resources to coordinate responses to the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) crisis.

In addition to Sens. Smith and Udall, the bill is supported by Sens. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), and Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), all members of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.

“The safety of all Minnesotans—including people on tribal lands—is critical to communities’ ability to thrive,” said Sen. 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.”

“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 Sen. 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 Sen. 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 Sen. Cortez Masto.
“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 Sen. McSally.  
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.

You can access full text of the bill here.