On Friday at midnight, Washington State Patrol will launch the new Missing Indigenous Person Alert System, a first of its kind in the nation.
Missing Indigenous Persons is being added as a specific designation to the Endangered Missing Persons Alert systems, such as Amber Alerts that highlight missing children.
In March, Gov. Jay Inslee signed House Bill 1725, which implemented the advisory for missing indigenous persons as state legislators found that indigenous people experienced disproportionate rates of violence in Washington, according to a report from WSP.
“This is a significant step for our state and agency,” said MUPU director Carri Gordon. “We know that indigenous people go missing at a significantly higher rate than the general population. WSP currently has two full-time tribal liaisons that work with tribal law enforcement and advocacy groups to coordinate state communications and response to this issue. The new M.I.P.A. system will be one more tool in rapid response by the state that will hopefully allow us to find and assist indigenous people who are in danger.”
In Washington, more than four times as many Indigenous women disappear than white women, according to research conducted by the Urban Indian Health Institute in Seattle.
The alert system will broadcast information about missing Indigenous people on message signs and in highway advisory radio messages. Information will also be provided to the media through press releases.
While not every missing Indigenous person will qualify for the MIPA alert, the system will be activated based on the following criteria:
An Indigenous person is missing due to unexplained, involuntary, or suspicious circumstances and/or is believed to be in danger because of age, health, adverse weather, or other circumstances and is believed to be unable to return to safety without assistance.
There is enough descriptive information available that could reasonably assist with the safe recovery of the person such as: photos, height, weight, age, hair color, distinguishing physical characteristics, clothing, etc.
The incident has been reported to and is being investigated by law enforcement.
Rep. Debra Lekanoff (D-Anacortes), the sponsor of House Bill 1725, hopes the new system will help solve a growing issue in the Indigenous community.