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Congressman Tom Cole

Representing the 4th District of Oklahoma

Cole Joins Bipartisan Group to Introduce Bill to Address Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Crisis

September 11, 2019
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Tom Cole (OK-04) joined a bipartisan group of lawmakers led by Deb Haaland (NM-01), who introduced the Bridging Agency Data Gaps and Ensuring Safety (BADGES) for Native Communities Act today on the 25th Anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). The BADGES for Native Communities Act will address barriers that stand in the way of improving the efficiency of law enforcement agency data sharing and officer recruitment and retention, both of which are imperative to address the crisis of missing and murdered indigenous women. The bill will also ensure Tribes can continue important programs that currently work to increase public safety by making them permanent.

The bill has bipartisan support from co-leads Sharice Davids (KS-03), Markwayne Mullin (OK-02), Don Young (AK-At large), Ruben Gallego (AZ-07), Tom O’Halleran (AZ-01), Norma Torres (CA-35), Dan Newhouse (WA-04), Gwen Moore (WI-04)., and Paul Cook (CA-08).

“It is fitting that the introduction of the BADGES for Native Communities Act falls on the 25th anniversary year for VAWA, which has been instrumental in making Native communities safer. Although we have made strides in the right direction, more can still be done. Far too often, tribal members suffer the consequences of the dysfunctional relationship between the Federal Bureau of Investigation and National Institute of Justice. Moreover, tribes have only half of the amount of local law enforcement officials necessary to effectively police and protect their communities. By streamlining federal criminal database coordination and incentivizing efforts to recruit more law enforcement officials, the BADGES Act represents a necessary step toward making Native American communities safer,” said Rep. Tom Cole. 

“Everyone deserves to be safe and free from the cycle of violence, but a legacy of violence against Native women perpetuates the disproportional violence that they experience. VAWA 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 people cases, and end the missing and murdered indigenous women crisis,” said Rep. Deb Haaland.

“Improving coordination and information sharing between law enforcement agencies is vital to increasing the safety of Indian Country and addressing the epidemic of missing and murdered indigenous women. I’m proud to join my colleagues in introducing the BADGES Act, which will help ensure the health and safety of Native communities and allow survivors to seek the justice that they deserve,” said Rep. Sharice Davids.

“The silent crisis of missing and murdered indigenous women is wreaking havoc on our families and our communities,” said Rep. Markwayne Mullin. “All parties have to work together to fight back against this epidemic of violence. Our priority must be to protect native women and children and this legislation will help federal, state, tribal, and local law enforcement agencies better coordinate their efforts.”

“Alaska Native communities are home to some of the most remote population centers in our great state. Because of the difficulty in travel and communication, crime – particularly the scourge of missing and murdered indigenous women – has reached a crisis level,” said Rep. Don Young. “Alaskans from all walks of life have been horrified by recent headlines detailing stories of violence, sexual assault, and other crimes, and it is crucial that we take action to make our communities a safe place for everyone. The BADGES Act will increase public safety by bringing down the barriers preventing law enforcement from properly coordinating and providing Native communities with increased access to law enforcement data. I am proud to co-lead this legislation and am grateful for the work of Congresswoman Haaland on this important issue. It is my great hope that we can soon turn the tide in the fight against crime being perpetrated in our Native communities, and I will keep working to ensure that Alaska is a safe place for all.”

“For too long, Indigenous communities have been denied the attention and resources they need to ensure the safety of their people and get justice for missing and murdered Indians,” said Rep. Ruben Gallego, who chairs the Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States. “I’m proud to support this bipartisan bill, which would improve data collection, facilitate federal coordination with tribes, and increase resources for tribal law enforcement – steps that will make a real difference in Indian Country and help begin to curb the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women.”

“Within Arizona’s First Congressional District are 12 different native tribes and nations, all of whom who face significant hurdles in their pursuits for justice both in and out of the courtroom,” said Rep. Tom O’Halleran. “As both a public servant and a former police officer, I have dedicated much of my life to protecting our most vulnerable and advocating for underrepresented communities like many in Indian Country. I know just how difficult our criminal justice system can be for these individuals. Today, I am proud to join my colleagues to introduce the BADGES Act to streamline public safety and criminal justice reform for Native American communities and strengthen tribal sovereignty in the process.” 

“On the 25th Anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act, it has never been more important to reaffirm our commitment to addressing the crimes against missing and murdered indigenous women,” said Rep. Norma Torres.“ That’s why I’m proud to work with Congresswoman Haaland to introduce legislation that would facilitate data sharing between law enforcement to tackle this crisis head on and strengthen public safety in Indian Country.”

“For too long, Native American communities and law enforcement agencies have struggled to access coordinated federal crime data. The BADGES for Native Communities Act aims to address this issue by providing tribes and tribal law enforcement access to federal resources and criminal databases needed to effectively investigate cases of missing and murdered indigenous women. It strengthens our tribal communities’ ability to enforce public safety by addressing the lack of resources and the shortage of qualified law enforcement personnel facing Native communities in Central Washington and across the country. I will continue to work to bring justice for indigenous women and their families and look forward to this legislation being signed into law,” said Rep. Dan Newhouse.

“The crisis of murdered and missing Native American women devastates communities who often lack the resources and tools to take the appropriate steps. Expanding access to criminal and missing persons data between tribal and federal law enforcement agencies will make Native American communities safer and help protect the most vulnerable in Indian Country,” said Rep. Gwen Moore. “I successfully fought to include protections for Native American women in the 2013 Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), and supporting this legislation is another reminder that our work is far from over.”

“I’m proud to cosponsor this important legislation on the week of the 25th Anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act. The BADGES Act will bridge data gaps in the federal government to improve cooperation with Indian Country law enforcement, provide grants to fight the missing and murdered Indigenous women crisis, and initiate studies and demonstration programs that will ensure safety for Native American communities. I look forward to working with my colleagues to advance this critical legislation,” said Rep. Paul Cook.

The BADGES for Native Communities Act bridges agency data gaps and ensures safety for Native communities by:

  • Addressing inefficiencies in federal criminal databases;
  • Increasing Tribal access to federal criminal databases;
  • Improving public data on missing and murdered Indigenous women cases and Indian Country law enforcement staffing levels;
  • Promoting more efficient recruitment and retention of BIA law enforcement;
  • Providing Tribes with resources to improve public safety coordination between their governments, states, and federal agencies; and
  • Mitigating against federal law enforcement personnel mishandling evidence crucial to securing convictions of violent offenders.

“It’s imperative that Congress and the U.S. Government honor the trust responsibility and do everything in their power to support tribal authority to end the crisis of violence against American Indian and Alaska Native women and bring all perpetrators to justice. BADGES is one small step forward, we look forward to continuing our work with Representative Haaland and the rest of Congress to continue the momentum of change needed to end violence against Native women.” -- National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center 

“The BADGES Act seeks to ensure justice for our relatives who are navigating multiple justice systems, promotes adequate response and will improve systemic coordination at several levels to allow for more effective access to data. Eliminating barriers to safety and coordinating existing efforts makes sense. Our tribal communities need this now.” -- Coalition to Stop Violence Against Native Women (CSVANW)

“I applaud Rep. Deb Haaland for introducing the House companion bill of the BADGES Act, and I commend the efforts by our federal partners in improving data collection and information sharing with the Navajo Nation and our sister nations. I would like to emphasize that data compiled by any agency are actual stories of indigenous families—we must hold them sacred. When the Navajo Nation initiated the Missing & Murdered Diné Relatives (MMDR) project, we made it a point to work with Navajo families and to tell their stories through the creation of a data institute, advocacy campaign, and community action. We are also pleased to know that this Act will provide grant opportunities to assist the Navajo Nation in bulking up its response to addressing MMDR and we look forward to continue working with our federal partners.” -- Council Delegate Amber Kanazbah Crotty, 24th Navajo Nation Council

“Seattle Indian Health Board has shed light on the gaps in and the challenges of collecting data that informs policies and resources addressing the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls crisis. The BADGES Act takes an important step in bridging law enforcement data gaps to address the issues that have caused our missing and murdered loved ones to go unnoticed for centuries. We stand with our tribal partners to increase interagency coordination, and will continue to support all efforts to ensure the safety of our relatives regardless of where they reside.” -- Seattle Indian Health Board

“The United States, in partnership with Tribal Nations, must do more to address the shameful rates of missing and murdered Native people. This includes ensuring parity for Tribal law enforcement--both in access to crime information, as well as opportunities for recruitment and retention of personnel. USET SPF supports the BADGES for Native Communities Act as a strong step toward more fully delivering upon the trust responsibility and obligations, as well as better supporting the exercise of our inherent sovereign rights and authorities to protect our people and communities.” -- President Kirk Francis, USET Sovereignty Protection Fund

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