- By Native News Online Staff
WASHINGTON—U.S. Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) and John Hoeven (R-N.D.) introduced bipartisan legislation today that aims to strengthen Tribal law enforcement and increase public safety throughout Indian Country.
The Bridging Agency Data Gaps & Ensuring Safety (BADGES) for Native Communities Act would support the Bureau of Indian Affairs in recruiting and retaining law enforcement personnel. The legislation would also give Tribes and states grant funding and other resources to combat the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.
According to a statement from Cortez Masto, the BADGES for Native Communities Act includes specific provisions to increase Tribal access to the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) and increase reporting on Tribal law enforcement staffing, infrastructure and technology needs.
The legislation would also allow the BIA to conduct its own background checks for law enforcement officer applicants, while also ensuring that BIA officers and Tribal police have access to culturally appropriate mental health and wellness programs.
“I’m doing all I can to ensure that Tribal law enforcement agencies have what they need to serve their communities, recruit and train officers, and bring perpetrators to justice,” Cortez Masto said in a statement.
The bill would give Tribal law enforcement access to more federal resources and improve coordination across agencies, according to Cortez Masto, who has championed efforts to combat the MMIW crisis and ensure safety for Native Americans. She sponsored the Not Invisible Act and was an original co-sponsor of the bipartisan Savanna’s Act, which were both signed into law to protect Native women and girls. Cortez-Masto has also repeatedly advocated for additional federal funding to help Tribal communities combat violence.
“Supporting Tribal law enforcement officers and agencies better equips them to serve their communities and keep the public safe,” Hoeven, former chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, said in a statement. The bill includes bipartisan legislation Hoeven previously introduced that would allow the BIA to conduct their own background checks on applicants, helping get more officers on the job.
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