Tester Demands Answers on Agencies' Response to Missing Native Woman
Senator: Law Enforcement Owes Higher Standard to Indian Country
(U.S. Senate) - U.S. Senator Jon Tester is demanding answers from law enforcement agencies who again failed to respond properly in the face of a missing woman in Indian Country.
In a letter to Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) Director Christopher Wray and Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) Acting Director Darryl LaCounte, Tester slammed the agencies' delayed response to the disappearance of 14-year old Henny Scott and sought answers as to what went wrong. Tragically, Scott was found deceased on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation last month.
"There are still many unanswered questions surrounding the circumstances of Henny's death, but it has become clear that the initial law enforcement response was unacceptable," Tester wrote. "I am troubled by the trend of inadequate responses to these types of situations. We cannot hope to solve the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women epidemic if we do not address how law enforcement initially responds in these cases."
Specifically, Tester wants to know why law enforcement took 13 days to release a missing person report to the public. The BIA reported Scott missing on December 13, but the information wasn't shared publicly until December 26.
Tester also wants to know how the BIA and FBI coordinated their search efforts and what actions the agencies took when they first learned of Scott's disappearance.
"A quick and coordinated law enforcement response is critical following the report of a missing person," Tester wrote. "It's unfathomable that 13 days could pass between the filing of a missing person report and notification to the general public. Law enforcement owes a much higher standard to protecting citizens in Indian Country."
Tester lead a Senate Indian Affairs Committee hearing on the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women epidemic last month. Tester has taken a three-pronged approach to addressing the MMIW epidemic focused on raising awareness, providing resources to support survivors, and empowering tribes to bring assailants to justice. He is also a sponsor of Savanna's Act, a measure aimed at addressing the epidemic, and recently secured a historic $133 million to help tribes assist survivors of violent crime through the Crime Victims Fund.
Read Tester's letter to FBI Director Wray and BIA Acting Director LaCounte HERE.