(The Center Square) – The Missing Indigenous Persons Alert was put into effect in July after Gov. Jay Inslee signed into law a bill last March to create the first-in-the-nation statewide alert system for missing indigenous persons.
According to Washington State Patrol Program Manager Carri Gordon, nothing prohibited the indigenous persons from falling into prior AMBER alerts for children, ENDANGERED MISSING PERSON alerts for adults and SILVER alerts for seniors.
“It’s my understanding that the representatives and those that brought it forward to the legislature felt that the indigenous group would be better suited to fall under their own category,” she said to The Center Square in a phone interview.
Due to the new alert title, Gordon said the WSP had to change their alerting software distribution system due to maxing out on upgrades.
“We had to purchase new alerting software to accommodate that addition,” she said.
The bill came with mandated legislative funding to allow the WSP to purchase the new distribution system and hire a new staff person as a supplemental program specialist now that the Missing and Unidentified Persons Unit is handling all alerts.
According to the WSP news release, not every missing person will qualify for the various alerts in the system.
If a person is able to return on their own and chooses not to, there are no indicators of foul play, or there is inadequate identifying information, those situations may not qualify for inclusion.
The state patrol is partnering with tribal law enforcement, municipal and federal law enforcement, Washington State Department of Transportation and other state agencies, as well as cable systems and state broadcasters to locate any missing indigenous persons.
If the person is 21 years old or under, the investigating agency will notify the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Washington’s current operating budget for the 2021–23 biennium (from all fund sources) is $128 billion. Approximately $55.6 billion out of that is collected by the general fund which is where the current and future funding for MIPA will draw from, according to Washington State Office of Financial Management Communications Director Ralph Thomas.