Rep. Haaland Introduces BADGES Act with Bipartisan Support

Representative Deb Haaland (D-NM) has formally introduced legislation to improve federal law enforcement reporting mechanisms for missing and murdered indigenous women. The Bridging Agency Gaps and Ensuring Safety for Native Communities Act (BRIDGES Act) was introduced upon the return from recess with 10 cosponsors, five Democrats and five Republicans.

According to Rep. Haaland’s office, while Congress has worked with agencies to increase interagency coordination between federal, state, tribal, and local law enforcement, criminal case information is still largely fragmented. To date, only 47 tribes have access to the Tribal Access program created by the Department of Justice to provide tribes with access to the National Crime Information Center, with many more still on waiting lists.

Rep. Haaland’s office also notes a severe understaffing within tribal law enforcement. In FY2010, tribes had only 1.9 officers per 1,000 residents compared to an average of 3.5 officers per 1,000 residents nationwide in non-tribal areas. Additionally, the Indian Law and Order Commission estimates Indian Country has a 50 percent staffing shortfall for law enforcement personnel overall.

The BADGES for Native Communities Act:

  • Addresses inefficiencies in federal criminal databases
  • Increases Tribal access to federal criminal databases
  • Improves public data on missing and murdered Indigenous women cases and Indian Country law
  • enforcement staffing levels
  • Promotes more efficient recruitment and retention of Bureau of Indian Affairs law enforcement
  • Provides Tribes with resources to improve public safety coordination between their governments, states, and federal agencies.
  • Mitigates against federal law enforcement personnel mishandling evidence crucial to securing convictions of violent offenders.

Rep. Haaland introduced this act with Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) last week ahead of the anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act.

“Everyone deserves to be safe and free from the cycle of violence, but a legacy of violence against native women and children perpetuates the disproportional violence that they experience. [The Violence Against Women Act] has shown us how impactful congressional public safety measures can be. It’s why I’m leading the BADGES Act to support the resources and data systems that will help us prevent violence, solve missing persons cases, and help end the missing and murdered indigenous women crisis,” said Rep. Haaland, who also serves as Co-Chair of the Congressional Native American Caucus.

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