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Tribal, federal law enforcement pledge more cooperation with local agencies

by Clark Fork Valley Press
| April 7, 2021 12:00 AM

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Montana, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Indian Reservation and the FBI announced Thursday the completion of the nation’s first Tribal Community Response Plan as part of a pilot project to address cases of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons.

Acting U.S. Attorney Leif Johnson, CSKT Chairwoman Shelly R. Fyant and FBI Executive Assistant Director Terry Wade presented the TCRP to tribal representatives during a meeting Thursday at tribal headquarters in Pablo.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Montana and CSKT on Dec. 1 launched the pilot project in accordance with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons (MMIP) Initiative, and the President’s Operation Lady Justice Task Force, and in furtherance of the goals in Savanna’s Act.

CSKT, with participation from federal, tribal, state and local law enforcement representatives and community organizations, developed guidelines for the TCRP through a series of working group meetings.

“CSKT’s development of a community response plan is a historic milestone in addressing this serious national issue. CSKT’s initiative to join in this pilot project will help other tribes across the country as they develop their own TCRPs. I want to thank our office’s Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons Coordinator, Ernie Weyand, CSKT Chairwoman Fyant, Council member and secretary, Ellie Bundy, CSKT policy analyst, Jami Pluff, and all of the partners and stakeholders who participated in this process,” Acting U.S. Attorney Johnson said.

“I’m honored to say that a lot of hard work went into reaching this milestone,” said CSKT Chairwoman Fyant. “By coming together in this effort, we have shown how true partnerships work, that by collaborating we can achieve incredible goals. We are not slowing down now. We will continue to bring light to this crisis as long as it is necessary and provide the essential law and order, victim services, media/public communications and community outreach work with all available resources. Thanks to everyone for their dedication and commitment to supporting the CSKT Community Response Plan.”

FBI Executive Assistant Director (EAD) Terry Wade, who oversees the Criminal, Cyber, Response, and Services Branch (CCRSB), stated: “The FBI has been dedicated to the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons (MMIP) Initiative since its inception and remains committed to the initiative. Working directly with forward leaning partners like the Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes (CSKT) is critical to improving the safety and security of our communities. The development of the Tribal Community Response Plan (TCRP) is yet another step in the right direction and will facilitate a coordinated response in these time sensitive investigations.”

After pilot projects are completed, Savanna’s Act directs the U.S. Attorney’s Office to continue working with other tribal governments to ensure guidelines are developed across Montana.

CSKT was selected for the pilot project in Montana because it had expressed an interest in participating, has worked on the MMIP issue, including establishing a tribal task force, and has significant community impact related to cases involving tribal members. In addition, CSKT was able to meet despite COVID-19 restrictions.

The working group meetings included representatives from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, CSKT, federal, state, tribal and local law enforcement (including the Flathead Tribal Police Department, Lake County Sheriff’s Office, Missoula County Sheriff’s Office, Flathead County Sheriff’s Office, Sanders County Sheriff’s Office, Polson Police Department, Ronan Police Department, FBI, U.S. Marshals Service, and the Montana Department of Justice) and community organizations.