Seattle: A new unit aimed at solving cold cases of missing and murdered Indigenous people will be established in Washington state, a result of the latest law to address a decades-long crisis.
House Bill 1177 was recommended by a state task force, passed unanimously in the Legislature and was signed last week by Gov. Jay Inslee.
The unit will operate within the state Attorney General’s Office and will assist federal, local and tribal law enforcement agencies in investigating unsolved cases involving Indigenous people, who are disproportionately targeted by violence. The unit will prioritize help for jurisdictions with limited resources, The Seattle Times reported.
“Victims are not alone. The cries of their loved ones are no longer unheard,” said bill sponsor Rep. Debra Lekanoff, D-Bow, who was born in Alaska and is part Tlingit and part Aleut.
The unit will have investigators and a person to maintain communication with the families of victims and serve as a go-between for families and law enforcement.
The state’s Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women & People Task Force, created to assess systemic causes behind the high rate of disappearances and murders of indigenous women and people, recommended the legislation.