Trump signs 'Operation Lady Justice' to solve missing, murdered Native women - Must Read Alaska
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Saturday, December 7, 2019
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Trump signs ‘Operation Lady Justice’ to solve missing, murdered Native women

ALASKA’S U.S. ATTORNEY GETS COORDINATOR

Two days before Thanksgiving, President Donald Trump sent a strong message to the Native American communities across the United States as he signed an executive order to focus on solving cases of missing and murdered American Indians and Alaska Native women. He was surrounded by tribal leaders from various states during the ceremony.

Operation Lady Justice will “engage with tribal communities on the scope of the issue; develop protocols to apply to new and unsolved cases; establish a multi-disciplinary, multi-jurisdictional team to review cold cases; establish greater clarity of roles, authorities and jurisdictions involved in these cases.” 

“We will leverage every resource we have to bring safety to our tribal communities, and we will not waver in this mission,” Trump said. “We’re taking this very seriously. This has never been done before. And I’ve seen it, just by reading and watching the news — it’s a very serious problem. It’s a horrible problem.”

[Read the Presidential Proclamation here]

The executive order is similar to legislation that Sen. Lisa Murkowski and two Democrat senators, Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada and Jon Tester of Montana, have offered. That bill is called the Not Invisible Act, which Murkowski described as designating official “to coordinate efforts across agencies and establishes a commission of local tribal and federal stakeholders to make recommendations to the Department of Interior and Department of Justice on how to combat this epidemic of disappearances, homicide, violent crime, and trafficking of Native Americans and Alaska Natives.”

Trump did not mention the Not Invisible Act in his remarks about Operation Lady Justice, but his efforts gave Murkowski the opportunity to make a rare statement applauding Trump:

“From legislative efforts such as my bills Savanna’s Act and the Not Invisible Act to securing significant funding through my role on the Senate Appropriations Committee, I’ve been working hard to elevate the epidemic of missing, trafficked, and murdered Indigenous women and girls on a national level. Between this executive order, the initiatives coming out of the Department of Justice, and my long-standing efforts—turning the tide of this crisis has truly become an ‘all-hands-on-deck’ approach. I applaud the President for this action, building on Attorney General Barr’s recent announcement, which is a signal of the urgency and importance that has been placed on this issue. Alongside the notable efforts of the administration, I will continue to push enduring policy to bring prevention, awareness, and justice to the many women and girls that have fallen victim to this heartbreaking reality.”

Last Friday, U.S. Attorney General William Barr announced a Department of Justice initiative to address the crisis of missing and murdered indigenous persons. The plan will place coordinators in multiple U.S. Attorney offices with the goal of developing protocols to improve the ability of law enforcement to address missing person cases, and also invests in training and tools to develop a more comprehensive and effective response process.

Alaska’s Office of the U.S. Attorney will receive funding for one of the coordinators, a person who will work with federal, tribal, state, and local agencies to develop common protocols and procedures for responding to reports of missing or murdered indigenous people. 

In addition, a specialized rapid deployment team is now being used in Alaska, in response to the Ashley Johnson-Barr abduction and murder in Kotzebue.

As a result of that case, the Anchorage FBI organized the first of its kind “state based” Child Abduction Rapid Deployment Team, by training members of state and local law enforcement in the specialized techniques used by the FBI nationally.

“These techniques directly apply to any missing person case and call upon the specialized skills described in the Attorney General’s initiative. Upon request by a tribal, state, or local law enforcement agency, the FBI will provide expert assistance based upon the circumstances of a missing indigenous persons case.  The FBI’s most advanced response capabilities will be brought to bear on these cases: such as CARD teams, Cellular Analysis Support Teams, Evidence Response Teams, Cyber Agents for timely analysis of digital evidence/social media, Victim Services personnel, and others assets as needed,” said U.S. District Attorney Bryan Schroder in a statement.

[Read more about the efforts of the U.S. District Attorney’s Office here]

“Attorney General Barr’s Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons Initiative will enhance public safety partnerships in rural Alaska, helping us provide justice for families mourning a murder victim or assistance to communities searching for a missing friend or neighbor,” Schroder said.

Last week, the Senate Indian Affairs Committee advanced the Not Invisible Act. It will be scheduled for the Senate floor and appears to have little controversy surrounding it. The Senate is in session Dec. 2 through 13, when it adjourns for the year.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs Tara Sweeney will visit Washington State on Dec. 16 to participate in a summit at the Yakama Nation reservation on missing and murdered indigenous women.

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Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • Haha, well played, Mr. President. Earlier this month you said, “I kind of like her but she really doesn’t like me,” of our senior senator. Now, you’ve gotten her to say something nice about you. It must have killed her to have to give you credit for anything.

    • Poor Democrats, wasting all of their energy trying to dump Trump, and missing opportunities to do good for the nation. Despite constant attacks from “never-Trumpers” like Lisa and Democrats, that “damn Trump” pushes ahead with governance?! Who knew?

  • Look at the picture closely. Ladies all smiling. Men frowning. And the Lefties all say that Trump doesn’t do anything. Trump is a master politician!

  • Senator Murkowski sure has a lot of I’s and my’s in her statement, especially for things she hasn’t actually accomplished.

  • We know Murkowski wasn’t there for the signing, buy choice, but Don Young went for the signing. We know the “other” bills that didn’t make it were not real bills to vote on and did not show concrete wording for the problems. We know that AG Barr has been here a couple of times and without Murkowski in the room. Sen. Dan Sullivan was there and gave a good summary of facts, as he has documented efforts in the State Law to endorse his intentions for these people. We know that these violent crimes begin in the villages with the family members or close ties, then encompasses a “don’t tell ” mentality of villagers. We know the victim, if alive is pushed out of the village to where ever they survive for a while and then the worst begins to take place in their lives. So, lets all look to the villages first for treatment of the problem that turns into the worst of the worst for the women and men of the native culture.

  • History of abuse of younger native women& girls by elder family members (men), often under alcohol influence) is very well documented and a truly large problem. “Coordinators” and fast strike teams with, of course, expensive staff backup, may help after the fact in these cases. But, this can become another expensive knee jerk reaction . The long term solution, and a better place to spend the money, is investment in education and cultural change within the younger generations.
    However, this does allow our senior senator to politically accommodate her Native voting base.. The fact that she couldn’t show up for the signing is ridiculous and indicative.

  • Where’s Byron Mallott? Did Trump mention his name as a Native Elder?

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