Alaska Delegation Applauds Opening of Cold Case Office in Anchorage
The Alaska Congressional Delegation, alongside other federal, state, tribal, and local leaders, helped kick off the opening of the Operation Lady Justice Task Force Cold Case Office in Anchorage. The office will be dedicated to solving cold cases involving missing and murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives. The Anchorage office is one of seven of its kind being established across the nation to handle such cold cases and will be staffed by law enforcement, tribal law enforcement, special agents from the Bureau of Indian Affairs Office of Justice Services (BIA-OJS), as well as personnel from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Offices of the U.S. Attorneys.
In December of 2019, a funding package was signed into law which included for the first time, funding to address the crisis of missing, trafficked, and murdered Indigenous women. Specifically, $6.5 million was provided for cold case efforts, a portion of which is being used for the Cold Case Task Force Offices.
“Addressing the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous people has been a priority of mine for years, so the announcement by the administration in July was long-awaited and welcomed news. This has been a cooperative effort at all levels—from legislation to appropriations to an Executive Order where we have come together to bring about a significant initiative,” said Senator Murkowski. “The opening of the Operation Lady Justice Anchorage office is not only a sign that we have moved beyond awareness to action, but it is a real and tangible step toward turning the tide on the backlog of cold cases in Alaska. I’m proud that this Cold Case Task Force office is possible because of the funding I worked to include in the 2020 omnibus appropriations bill. I applaud the administration for making this issue a priority and the many tribal advocates who urged action to make this a reality. I look forward to seeing the justice and healing this new initiative will bring to families across Alaska and I remain committed to ensuring this remains a priority.”
“Alaska leads the nation in many statistics that we are not proud of, including shockingly high rates of violent crime—rates that are even higher among our Alaska Native peoples,” said Senator Sullivan. “I appreciate the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Trump administration for focusing on this societal scourge by standing up the ‘Operation Lady Justice’ initiative, addressing the blight of missing and murdered Native Americans. We’ve been able to learn a great deal from the people most affected by this crisis thanks to engagements, like the ‘Reclaiming Our Native Communities’ roundtables hosted by Assistant Secretary Sweeney, in rural Alaska and throughout Indian Country. Alaskans welcome the presence of the BIA OJS Cold Case Office to offer closure to the families who have been hurting for too long, and to provide the justice that we all expect from our justice system.”
“Alaska Native communities are home to some of the most remote population centers in our state. Because of the difficulty in travel and communication, the scourge of missing and murdered Alaska Natives, particularly women and girls, has tragically impacted far too many families. Today’s opening of the first Missing and Murdered Native Americans Cold Case office in Anchorage is important news for the victims and families who deserve nothing short of justice. I am grateful to the Trump Administration, Secretary Bernhardt, and Assistant Secretary Sweeney for their commitment to Alaska Natives and Indigenous people across our country,” said Congressman Young. “Our work must not stop. It is my great hope that we can turn the tide in the fight against crimes perpetrated in our Native communities, and it will continue to be one of my highest priorities to ensure that Alaska is a safe place for all.”
Operation Lady Justice Task Force Background: In November 2019, President Donald Trump signed an executive order to establish Operation Lady Justice, a task force to help address the epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous persons. The executive order followed a Department of Justice announcement launching a nationwide strategy to respond to the crisis. The purpose of the multi-agency effort is to enhance the operation of the criminal justice system and address the staggering number of missing and murdered American Indian and Alaska Natives in tribal communities.