Establishment of the Missing and Murdered Unit
The Not Invisible Act of 2020 Legislation
H.R. 2438, the ‘‘Not Invisible Act of 2020,’’ is a congressional act designed to address the crisis of violence and sexual violence committed against American Indian and Alaska Native men and women. The Act brings together a committee of law enforcement, tribal authorities, federal partners, and more to study and discuss solutions to the crisis of murdered and missing Indigenous women and to establish better systems of coordination.
Specifically, the Act directs BIA to appoint a federal effort coordinator to combat violence against Native people and establishes, within the Department of the Interior (DOI) and the Department of Justice (DOJ), a Joint Commission on Reducing Violent Crime Against Indians. It also creates a new position within the Interior Department dealing specifically with murder, trafficking, and missing Native Americans, and forms a new joint advisory committee between the Interior and Justice Departments to solve those issues.
The Not Invisible Act appoints BIA to coordinate prevention efforts, grants, and programs relating to murder of, trafficking of, and missing Native Americans, across various federal agencies. The coordinator reports to the Secretary of the Interior, and is directed to take into consideration the unique challenges faced by Tribal communities and works in cooperation with outside organizations to train Tribal law enforcement, Indian Health Service (IHS) providers, and other Tribal community members on identifying, responding to, and reporting on cases of missing persons, murder, and human trafficking. The coordinator also reports to Congress annually on these efforts and provides recommendations for improving coordination.
BIA’s Missing and Murdered Unit
The BIA, Office of Justice Services established the Missing and Murdered Unit to focus on analyzing and solving missing and murdered cases involving American Indians and Alaska Natives. Investigators and other specialists work to leverage tribal, federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, and other stakeholders to enhance the criminal justice system and address the legitimate concerns of AI/AN communities, regarding missing and murdered people – specifically missing and murdered indigenous women and girls.
The Missing and Murdered Unit is unique in OJS in that it has the ability to marshal law enforcement resources across the Office of Justice Services and was given an expanded ability to collaborate efforts with other agencies, such as enhancing the DOJ’s National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs), and developing strategic partnerships with additional stakeholders such as the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Units (BAU’s), the FBI Forensic Laboratory, the US Marshals Missing Child Unit (MCU) and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC).
In addition to reviewing unsolved cases, the MMU works with Tribal, BIA and FBI Investigators on active missing and murdered investigations. BIA law enforcement have numerous open cases agents are investigating. The MMU handles acute cases, which are cases that are considered either an endangered missing person, have been missing for a long term, or are an unsolved homicide. The BIA seeks public assistance and information on these cases involving missing or murdered victims in Indian Country.
In total, the Unit is responsible for:
- Gathering intelligence on active missing and murdered cases,
- Reviewing and prioritizing cases for assignment to investigative teams,
- Developing investigative plans to guide investigators,
- Identify any outside resources that could benefit their investigative efforts and coordinating those resources with their investigative team,
- Management of the tips submitted to Tip411, the Cold Case email and 1-800 line
- Assigning and investigating cases,
- Coordinating with other stakeholders,
Preparing investigative reports,
- Analyzing current missing-person protocols, and
- Developing missing-person response guidelines.
The Unit is led by a Unit Chief who is responsible for stakeholder collaboration, ongoing policy development and overall performance of the unit.
- Supervisory Special Agents (SSA’s) assist the Unit Chief by providing day-to-day supervision of the Special Agents in the field.
- Program Analysts develop the collection and analysis of performance data;
- Program Specialists coordinate administrative and programmatic responsibilities; and
- Victim Specialists to help coordinate services with the families of victims.
There are 15 BIA offices located throughout the nation dedicated to solving missing and murdered cases for American Indians and Alaskan Natives. Office locations were selected based on an analysis that identified regions throughout Indian Country with the highest number of reported missing and murdered AI/ANs as well as the most strategically situated to provide the best service to each regional area.