Bill to reduce rates of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, boost cooperation among law enforcement agencies for crimes on tribal lands moves forward

For immediate release:

SACRAMENTO –A measure to improve public safety on tribal lands by increasing collaboration among law enforcement agencies and that would also help reduce the number of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in California was unanimously approved today by the Assembly Public Safety Committee.

AB 3099 by Assemblymember James C. Ramos (D-Highland) would create greater sharing of information and heightened cooperation between California’s Department of Justice (DOJ), tribal governments and local law enforcement, including tribal justice systems.

“The murder rates of Native American women can be ten times the national average on some reservations,” Ramos said. “Many suspects are non-Indian, but confusion over which law enforcement agency has jurisdiction helps perpetrators avoid facing justice.”

Ramos added that the term, “Missing and Murdered indigenous Women and Girls” sounds harsh. “But for those of us who were brought up in Indian Country and still live there, that term refers to beloved sisters, cousins and other family members and friends we know,” the lawmaker said. “We care about them and mourn them. It is unconscionable that these crimes continue and even worse that the victims and their families never see justice.”

Jurisdictional confusion has occurred because of a 1953 federal law, Public Law 280, Ramos adds. It removed federal criminal jurisdiction over most major offenses committed on reservations. Public Law 280 also limited civil jurisdiction in Indian Country to six states, including California. More states were added in later years.

AB 3099 would create three new positions within DOJ to provide assistance to tribal police covering reporting statistics, training materials, outreach materials and procedures relating to crime issues on tribal lands and in Native American communities. They would include, but not be limited to, missing persons cases involving Native American women and girls. Finally, the bill would require DOJ to coordinate education and outreach between tribal police and state and local law enforcement agencies.

Dorothy Alther, Executive Director for California Indian Legal Services, a supporter of the bill, said, “California Indian Legal Services applauds AB 3099 for providing training and resources that will better the relationship and coordination between state and tribal law enforcement departments.” She added, “Having consistent understanding  of Public Law 280 and policing authority in Indian Country means safer tribal communities for not only tribal members but also for those who visit tribal lands.” 

In addition to California Indian Legal Services, AB 3099 is supported by the Riverside Sheriffs’ Association, Peace Officers Research Association of California, NEXTGEN California and tribes.

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Assemblymember James Ramos proudly represents the 40th Assembly district which includes Highland, Loma Linda, Mentone, Rancho Cucamonga, Redlands, and San Bernardino.