Report Assails Search for Missing Native Women

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Native American pottery designed by Donna Featherstone. Photo by Zyg Zee via Flickr

A Washington State Patrol report on investigations of missing and murdered Native American women details inconsistent reporting methods, cultural misunderstandings, distrust of government in general and police in particular, as well as a lack of easily accessible resources and communication missteps that have created barriers to collaboration with law enforcement, the Seattle Times reports.

Capt. Monica Alexander held nearly a dozen meetings with Native Americans to discuss the problem. “There’s a huge communication gap between the Native American community and law enforcement. That was the thing that kept coming up,” she said. “They feel like no one cares and that’s a horrible feeling and it makes us (law enforcement) feel like we aren’t doing our work.”

Fifty-six Native American women from Washington state are listed as missing persons in the National Crime Information Center (NCIC).

In community meetings, Alexander heard from people who were told they needed to wait 24, 48 or 72 hours before reporting a loved one missing, even though there isn’t a state law that requires a waiting period before a police can take a missing-person report.

Even when a police report was filed, many family members complained they were left in the dark about the progress of an investigation, with little or no contact from detectives.

Others said their concerns weren’t taken seriously by police, especially if a woman had a history of drug abuse, mental-health issues or suspected involvement in prostitution. Many shared their suspicions that at least some of the missing women are victims of sex trafficking who have been forced into prostitution in Canada.

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