When reviewing the community listening session responses, the Task Force identified four themes that seemed common among Native American communities regardless of whether they were urban Indian areas or reservations:
- Limited law enforcement resources – lack of adequate personnel
- Lack of standardized protocols when a person is reported missing
- Lack of communication:
- Between law enforcement and families
- Between agencies – Tribal law enforcement, BIA, Montana Highway Patrol, Child Protective Services, FBI, police and sheriff departments
- Lack of accountability of system-based agencies
The Task Force discussed feedback and key observations from each listening session to identify additional questions: How do jurisdictions work and are they meeting the needs of families? Are there areas where significant gaps remain? How can agency responses and services to families be improved within and across jurisdictions? What resources do communities need?
After discussions and presentations by Montana DOJ staff and experts in the field throughout the year, the Task Force identified four strategies to recommend to the State-Tribal Relations Interim Committee for consideration before the 2021 Legislature.
Recommendations to the Legislature:
- Establish a Missing Persons Review Commission – the Commission will examine the trends and patterns of missing Indigenous persons in Montana; educate the public, law enforcement, and policymakers about missing Indigenous persons and strategies for investigation and prevention; and recommend policies and practices that may encourage jurisdictional collaboration and coordination and reduce the incidence of missing persons.
- Establish a Missing Person Response Team Training Grant Program – the grant program will help fund training opportunities for community-based missing persons response teams. Eligible teams may be multi-agency and multi-jurisdictional and include other community entities and volunteers. Eligible teams shall establish memorandums of understanding between the involved entities; develop operational procedures and criteria under which a team activation can occur; and participate in a community action planning effort conducted in accordance with department guidelines. Eligible training expenses include but are not limited to the licensing costs of a training program, facilitator and conference location fees, and travel expenses for training staff and trainees.
- Extend the Missing Indigenous Persons Task Force – the Montana Missing Indigenous Persons Task Force will be extended to June 30, 2023.
- Extend the Looping in Native Communities Act and grant program – the LINC grant program will be extended to June 30, 2023; the Looping in Native Communities grant will be extended and open to all tribal entities and will allow costs for the technology, maintenance, and fees for online access to the web-based reporting/database system for missing Indigenous persons.