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Ducey signs bill to study murders of Native women

By: - May 14, 2019 11:48 am

Rep. Jennifer Jermaine, D-Chandler, sponsored legislation to examine violence against Native women. Photo by Jerod MacDonald-Evoy | Arizona Mirror

Gov. Doug Ducey has signed into law a bill that will create a study committee to examine cases of murdered and missing indigenous women and girls.

House Bill 2570, introduced by Rep. Jennifer Jermaine, D-Chandler, creates a committee to study murders of indigenous women and girls, often referred to as MMIWG cases. Under the bill, the committee will submit a detailed report later this year to the governor and state legislators.

Ducey said on Twitter that he was proud to sign the bill stating that the “crisis of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls must be addressed.”

Jermaine thanked the governor for his support of the measure.

The committee will consist of chairpersons of the House of Representatives and the Senate’s Indigenous Peoples Caucuses, the attorney general or a designee, the director of the Department of Public Safety or a designee, a sheriff and county attorney from each county, one tribal representative, one victims’ advocate, one tribal chief of police, one peace officer from a reservation, a social worker and others who work with Native American communities.

An Arizona Mirror analysis of the sparse publicly available data on MMIWG cases found that more than 25 percent of murders involving idigenous women in Arizona go unsolved.

Additionally, the Murder Accountability Project found that one in three murders of Native Americans in Arizona go unreported to the FBI.

There are major issues with data that makes it difficult to track MMIWG cases, something the study committee will seek to address.

As researchers with the Urban Indian Health Institute pointed out in a study last year, many agencies that report crime data to the FBI are not doing so properly. The Santa Fe Police Department told UIHI researchers last year that it could not separate Native women within its own data sets.

Additionally, race is generally not determined by the medical examiner’s office and is determined by whoever is issuing the death certificate.

It’s unclear what are the exact limitations of the data for Arizona.

All current data is based on FBI crime data, which is voluntarily submitted by departments and has been found to have flaws. As a result, it is unclear what the real number of unsolved MMIWG cases is in Arizona.

The Ak-Chin Tribal Police reported only a single homicide in the FBI records, and it remains unsolved. The Tohono O’odham Police reported 33 murders from 2006 to 2016, but solved only 2 of them, the data show. The Fort Apache Police Agency reported 91 homicides from 2006 to 2016 and solved only one.

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Jerod MacDonald-Evoy
Jerod MacDonald-Evoy

Reporter Jerod MacDonald-Evoy joins the Arizona Mirror from the Arizona Republic, where he spent 4 years covering everything from dark money in politics to Catholic priest sexual abuse scandals. Jerod has also won awards for his documentary films which have covered issues such as religious tolerance and surveillance technology used by police. He brings strong watchdog sensibilities and creative storytelling skills to the Arizona Mirror.