Hoeven bill supports improved law enforcement in Native American communities

U.S. Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND) on Feb. 16 introduced bipartisan legislation that would establish a federal grant program to support states, tribes, and tribal organizations in the coordination of efforts related to missing and murdered persons cases and sexual assault cases.

“Supporting tribal law enforcement officers and agencies better equip them to serve their communities and keep the public safe,” Sen. Hoeven said. 

The Bridging Agency Data Gaps and Ensuring Safety (BADGES) for Native Communities Act, S. 465, is sponsored by U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) and also would allow the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) to conduct its own background checks for law enforcement officer applicants toward improving officer recruitment throughout Native American communities, according to a bill summary provided by the lawmakers.

“Our bill includes bipartisan legislation I previously introduced to allow BIA to conduct their own background checks on applicants, helping get more officers on the job,” said Sen. Hoeven. “The BADGES for Native Communities Act is about improving public safety and enhancing available resources in tribal communities.”

If enacted, S. 465 also would increase tribal access to the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System by requiring tribal facilitators to conduct ongoing outreach and to serve as a point of contact for tribes and law enforcement agencies. They also would be tasked with conducting training and information gathering to improve the resolution of missing persons cases, according to the summary.

Additionally, S. 465 would require a report on tribal law enforcement needs, including staffing, replacement and repairs for corrections facilities, infrastructure and capital for tribal police and court facilities, and emergency communication technology, the summary says.

Federal law enforcement evidence collection, handling, and processing crucial to securing the convictions of violent offenders also would be evaluated under the measure.

“I’m doing all I can to ensure that tribal law enforcement agencies have what they need to serve their communities, recruit and train officers, and bring perpetrators to justice,” said Sen. Cortez Masto. “My bill will give tribal law enforcement access to more federal resources and improve coordination across agencies, strengthening public safety and protecting native families.”