Kansas Law Enforcement Training on Missing and Murdered Natives Now Available

LAWRENCE — A new training module for Kansas law enforcement agencies focused on investigating missing and murdered Indigenous people is now available.

The Kansas attorney general’s office has partnered with the Kansas Bureau of Investigation and the Kansas Law Enforcement Training Center to expand the training, according to a press release from the attorney general’s office. These three entities incorporated input from the four federally recognized Native American tribes in Kansas and the Native American lawmakers who sponsored the legislation to create the training module.

“In 2019, lawmakers in 14 states introduced 30 measures addressing under-reporting and data collection issues that demonstrate the difficulty of solving murder cases of (missing and murdered Indigenous women),” the Democratic Rep. of Wichita Ponka-We Victors-Cozad, which sponsored the 2008 House Bill.

The legislation passed with bipartisan support in 2021. Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt announced the training module was ready last month.

“Of the 30 pieces of legislation introduced last year, 17 have been signed into law,” Victors-Cozad said. “Therefore, I know this bill will be a step in the right direction for Kansas.”

Victors said she has relatives and friends who were murdered and some who remain missing as of January 2021 because of “this unspoken national crisis.”

In a statement, council members of the Potawatomi Nation of the Prairie Band said “it is encouraging that the AG’s office has begun to focus on missing and murdered Indigenous peoples, an issue called MMIP, but that there is still room for improvement and that the nation looks forward to continuing the substantive dialogue.

The training module contains information on historical background, definitions, statutes, tribal sovereignty and jurisdictional challenges, potential connection to human trafficking, importance of federal, state and local partnerships, and resources available to assist with MMIP investigations, according to the attorney general. Desk.

“Part of the problem that we have encountered and seen over the years is that there are serious jurisdictional issues across the country,” said Joyce Grover, executive director of the Kansas Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence, which has testified in favor of the bill. “And there have been several reports on issues of jurisdiction, so who can enforce laws that involve violence against Native American women. And so we see it in this light of sexual assault and domestic violence.

According to a 2016 study conducted by the National Institute of Justice84.3% of Native American and Alaska Native women have experienced violence, of which 56.1% have experienced sexual violence.

Grover said the module is a first step in recognizing the problem of high rates of violence experienced by American Indians. But the challenge is far more important than the training.

According to neutral testimony provided by Robert Jacobs, Director General of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, 2,402 American Indians or Alaska Natives have been reported missing in Kansas between 1984 and 2020. Of those missing, 99.7% have been located. According to these statistics, about seven Native Americans who went missing between 1984 and 2020 in Kansas have not been found.

“Missing and murdered Indigenous peoples include women, men and Two-Spirit people who are disproportionately impacted by this public health crisis,” said Rep. Christina Haswood, Democrat of Lawrence and member of the Navajo Nation. “It’s a movement that takes action and raises awareness about the disproportionate rates of kidnapping, murder, violence and trafficking of Indigenous people.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Protection, murder is the third leading cause of death among Native American women, and the murder rate among women living on reservations is 10 times the national average.

Native American and Alaska Native men also experience high rates of violence. According to the National Institute of Justice, 81.6% of Native American and Alaska Native men have experienced violence in their lifetime.

Six days after the training module was announced, William Blacksmith was shot multiple times and killed on the Kickapoo Reservation in Brown County, the Hiawatha world reported. Stryder Keo, who was taken into custody at his home on the reservation shortly after the shooting, has been charged with one count of first-degree murder.

According to the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, an online database administered by the National Institute of Justice, there are three missing Native American or Alaska Native individuals in Kansas. All are male, with the most recent being reported missing on December 1, 2021.

The training module was released July 1 and is optional for Kansas law enforcement. The training is accessible to the public free of charge. It will be updated by the Kansas Law Enforcement Training Center based on feedback provided throughout the year, and an updated version will be available on July 1, 2023.

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