Cortez Masto introduces bill to strengthen tribal law enforcement

Nevada U.S. Sen Catherine Cortez Masto in a screenshot from a U.S. Senate video.
Nevada U.S. Sen Catherine Cortez Masto in a screenshot from a U.S. Senate video.(KOLO)
Published: Sep. 22, 2022 at 1:55 PM PDT
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WASHINGTON D.C., Virginia (KOLO) - Nevada Senator Catherine Cortez Masto has joined four other Congressmembers in introducing a bill to strengthen tribal law enforcement.

The Bridging Agency Data Gaps & Ensuring Safety for Native Communities Act would aim to address recruitment and retention issues, improve federal missing persons resources, and give tribes and states more resources for finding missing and murdered indigenous women and girls.

“For too long, Indian Country has experienced barriers to justice because law enforcement agencies don’t have what they need,” said Senator Cortez Masto. “That’s unacceptable, and this bill will help support law enforcement and make sure that crimes can be prosecuted and offenders brought to justice.”

Provisions within the bill do the following:

  • Increase Tribal access to the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) by requiring Tribal facilitators to conduct ongoing Tribal outreach and serve as a point of contact for Tribes and law enforcement agencies, as well as conduct training and information gathering to improve the resolution of missing persons cases.
  • Require a report on Tribal law enforcement needs, including staffing, replacement and repairs for corrections facilities, infrastructure and capital for tribal police and court facilities, and emergency communication technology.
  • Allow the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) to conduct its own background checks for law enforcement officer applicants in order to improve officer recruitment.
  • Establish grant program to support states, Tribes, and Tribal organizations in the coordination of efforts related to missing and murdered persons cases and sexual assault cases.
  • Evaluate federal law enforcement evidence collection, handling, and processing crucial to securing conviction of violent offenders.
  • Ensure BIA officers and Tribal police have access to culturally appropriate mental health and wellness programs.

Cortez Masto was joined by Representative Ruben Gallego (D-Arizona), Tom Cole (R-OK), Sharice Davids (D-Kansas), and Dan Newhouse (R-WA) in introducing the legislation.