Attorney General Bob Ferguson and Rep. Debra Lekanoff (D-Anacortes) will propose a new bill to create an alert system to identify missing Indigenous women and people of other genders, the attorney general announced on Jan. 3.
The system is similar to that of a “silver alert” for missing, vulnerable adults or an “amber alert” for missing children. Alerts would be broadcast on highway message signs and radio messages. If enacted, it would be the first such system in the country, according to the Attorney General’s Office.
“The rate of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Washington is a crisis,” Ferguson said in a press release. “We must do everything we can to address this problem. This effective tool will help quickly and safely locate missing Indigenous women and people.”
In Washington state alone, more than four times as many Indigenous women go missing as white women, according to research conducted by the Urban Indian Health Institute (UIHI).
According to a report released by UIHI in 2019, Seattle was the most deadly city for Indigenous women in the United States. At least 45 Indigenous women had gone missing or been murdered in Seattle, the highest number out of 71 cities covered in the UIHI report. The organization found 506 unique cases across those cities, which was almost certainly an undercount — UIHI uncovered 153 cases that did not appear in the law enforcement records the organization requested.
The Washington state legislature created a task force as part of an effort to respond to the crisis.
New year, new mayor
Mayor Bruce Harrell gave his first address as mayor after a public swearing-in from City Hall on Jan. 4, his second official day in office.
Harrell came out with bold promises to provide “health care for all” for Seattle residents and a decision about the police chief within the first few months of his administration. Interim Chief Adrian Diaz has occupied the role since former-Chief Carmen Best resigned in August 2021.
In the vein of public safety, Harrell also said that he would have a different kind of police officer as well as the right number of police officers. The Seattle Police Department has seen hundreds of police leave the department since the protests in the summer of 2020.
The new mayor said that his administration would have an “obsession with excellence and kindness,” promising to be “intolerant, not of the people who are unhoused, but the conditions that caused them to be unhoused.” During his time on the campaign trail, Harrell promised to keep parks clear of people experiencing homelessness and adopted many of the precepts of Compassion Seattle, a proposed charter amendment that was ultimately thrown out by the courts before it could get to the ballot.
Read more of the Jan. 5-11, 2022 issue.