Last month, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., introduced new legislation that can assist in solving kidnapping cases on Native American reservations via Amber Alerts.
If passed, the legislation, called the “Amber Alert in Indian Country Act of 2017,” will expand the Amber Alert warning system to Tribal reservations. The Department of Justice would use this act to provide grants to tribes to help create the alert systems for Tribal law enforcement agencies.
Currently, Amber Alert training services are available through a DOJ pilot program, but with the Act, the initiative will be permanent. Along with establishing warning systems on reservations, the legislation would also create a communication plan between local and Tribal law enforcement to ensure alerts are shown to the public to aid in the search for missing children.
McCain explained in a press release that this legislation stems from a tragic kidnapping that occurred in 2016, during which someone abducted and murdered 11-year-old Ashlynne Mike from the Navajo Tribe.
“In that high profile case, authorities did not issue an Amber Alert for Ashlynne until the day after the family members reported her abduction,” he explained in the release. “According to data produced by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, there are 7,724 Native American children listed as missing in the United States.”
The Seminole Police Department has a relationship with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. As such, if there are any kidnapping cases, then SPD would communicate with FDLE, which sends alerts throughout the state.
William Latchford, Seminole Tribe Chief of Police, said that in the past few years, the Seminole Tribe has had a few reported kidnappings, but the department found the cases were not true child abductions.
“If we ever do have issues with a missing child or the endangerment of an elderly person, we have access with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement through our partnership,” he added. “If there’s a situation, we just call them and they put an Amber Alert out for us.”
Even though the Seminole Tribe does not have many reported kidnappings, Latchford explained that this bill can be beneficial to other tribes. He explained that many other reservations do not have the resources and connections needed to properly prevent and handle child abductions.
“A lot of the problems that are out there, we don’t really have them here in Florida,” he explained. “Other places may not have the resources that we do here. For them to have access to Amber Alert is definitely a resource they should have.”
The bill was introduced to the U.S. Senate in June and must pass through both chambers of Congress and be signed by President Trump to become official legislation.