SACRAMENTO –State senators today approved a bill to boost collaboration among law enforcement agencies on tribal lands and help reduce the number of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in California on a 39 to 0 vote.
Assemblymember James C. Ramos (D-Highland), author of AB 3099, said, “The rates of murdered women and girls in Native American communities is a shameful state and national tragedy that does not receive the scrutiny and attention it deserves.” He noted a critical obstacle in solving cases is confusion over jurisdiction among tribal, federal, state and local sheriffs or city police departments. “This confusion causes delays and makes it difficult for law enforcement to share information. The result is that these victims and their loved ones do not receive justice,” Ramos added.
AB 3099 would assist the California Department of Justice (DOJ), tribal governments and local law enforcement, including tribal justice systems, improve their data collection and collaboration. It would create four new positions within the DOJ to aid tribal police with the reporting of statistics, training and outreach materials and procedures relating to crimes on tribal lands and in Native American communities. Assistance 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.
“Murder rates of Native American women can be ten times the national average on some reservations,” Ramos continued. One recent report by the Sovereign Bodies Institute indicated that only nine percent of murders of indigenous women in California have ever been solved. “Many suspects are non-Indian, but confusion over which law enforcement agency has jurisdiction helps perpetrators avoid facing 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 state civil jurisdiction in Indian Country to six states, including California. More states were added in later years.
An informational hearing in August 2019 by the Assembly Select Committee on Native American Affairs highlighted issues affecting California’s Native American tribes, including the issue of missing and murdered women. It sparked introduction of AB 3099.
The San Manuel Band of Mission of Indians is the bill’s sponsor, and it is supported by the Riverside Sheriffs’ Association, Peace Officers Research Association of California, NEXTGEN California, Riverside Sheriffs’ Association, Tule River Tribal Police Department and the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria.
AB 3099 will be returned to the Assembly for concurrence in Senate amendments.
Assemblymember James Ramos proudly represents the 40th Assembly district which includes Highland, Loma Linda, Mentone, Rancho Cucamonga, Redlands, and San Bernardino.