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Trump-created office for missing Indigenous cases opens in Rapid City

President Donald Trump shows an executive order establishing the Task Force on Missing and Murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives, in the Oval Office of the White House, Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
President Donald Trump shows an executive order establishing the Task Force on Missing and Murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives, in the Oval Office of the White House, Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)(NBC15)
Published: Aug. 5, 2020 at 10:30 AM MDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA) - Rapid City’s new office to solve cold cases of missing and murdered indigenous women opened Tuesday.

This is the second of seven federal offices for Operation Lady Justice opened Tuesday in Rapid City, which is geared toward investigating cold cases involving missing and murdered American Indians.

Interior Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy and Economic Development for Indian Affairs Mark Cruz, a member of the Klamath Tribes in Oregon, and Administration for Native Americans Commissioner and member of the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe Jeannie Hovland, were joined by representatives of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for South Dakota and tribal government and law enforcement officials at the opening.

The office will be one of seven created by President Donald Trump as part of the Operation Lady Justice Task Force. The initiative aims to develop protocols for law enforcement to respond to missing and slain Native American persons cases and to improve data and information collection.

The first office opening was on July 27, 2020, in Bloomington, Minnesota. Other offices will be located in Billings, Montana; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Phoenix, Arizona; Anchorage, Alaska; and Nashville, Tennessee.

A way for top federal officials to engage, coordinate and work with tribal governments on developing strategies to address the crisis, the Operation Lady Justice Task Force is working to collect and manage data across jurisdictions; establish protocols for new and unsolved cases; establish multi-jurisdictional cold case teams; improve the response to investigative challenges; and provide clarity on the roles, authorities and jurisdiction for those involved. It is also charged with providing a report to the President of its work and accomplishments in meeting the executive order’s mandate.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs Office of Justice Service’s partnership with the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, known as NamUs, has led to the development and implementation of new tribal-affiliation data fields to assist law enforcement with capturing information to track missing and murdered persons in Indian Country. Since the addition of these new data fields last year, there has been a 60 percent increase in Native-person entries into the system.

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