KTVA: Murkowski pushes feds for study on missing, murdered indigenous women

More than a dozen federal lawmakers, among them Alaska’s senior U.S. senator, are seeking federal help in examining the nation’s wave of kidnapped and murdered Alaska Native and Native American women.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s office said in a Tuesday statement that she was one of 11 senators and six representatives in a bipartisan group asking the Government Accountability Office, the government's top watchdog group, to conduct a study on “the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) crisis.”

The group of six Democratic and five Republican senators, as well as five Democratic representatives and one Republican, sent a Monday letter to Comptroller General Gene Dodaro calling for a widespread examination of the ongoing issue.

“Relevant Department of Justice databases indicate that more than 5,000 Native women were missing as of 2016,” the lawmakers wrote. “However, we believe that number is likely far higher, as MMIW cases are often underreported or misclassified.”

The lawmakers are asking the GAO to review law enforcement agencies’ cooperation, federal law enforcement resources, law enforcement staffing levels, government databases and notification systems pertaining to MMIW cases.

Murkowski has been behind several initiatives to raise the issue on federal officials’ radar, amid high-profile Alaska cases in recent months. Those include murder and sexual-abuse charges in 10-year-old Ashley Johnson-Barr’s Kotzebue death last year and Alaska State Troopers’ arrest of Maine suspect Steven H. Downs in the 1993 cold-case killing of Pitkas Point resident Sophie Sergie at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

In addition to criticizing poor law enforcement reporting of missing and murdered Native women last year, in January Murkowski helped reintroduce Savanna's Act, an effort to improve law enforcement cooperation on MMIW cases.

Last month, Murkowski invited Attorney General William Barr to visit Alaska to witness the state of tribal justice on the Last Frontier. Barr said he was already planning such a trip.

According to Murkowski, the full list of the letter's signers includes:

Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT)

Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND)

Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM)

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV)

Sen. Tina Smith (D-MN)

Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT)

Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS)

Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY)

Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA)

Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI)

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)

Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ)

Rep. Paul Cook (R-CA)

Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ)

Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-PA)

Rep. Ed Case (D-HI)

Rep. Deb Haaland (D-NM)

By:  Chris Klint
Source: KTVA