OLYMPIA — State law enforcement officials have hired the first of two people for new roles to address a crisis of missing and murdered indigenous people.
Patti Gosch is the first full-time tribal liaison in the history of the Washington State Patrol, according to a news release. She is part of the State Patrol’s government and media relations team.
State Patrol is actively recruiting for its second tribal liaison, who will work in Eastern Washington. Those interested in applying can see the job posting here. Authorities seek candidates with significant experience in tribal or urban Native communities.
Advocates for missing and murdered indigenous people have been watching the hiring process closely. It’s unknown exactly how many Native people have gone missing, have been murdered and have died mysteriously on and around the 1.3-million-acre Yakama Reservation.
Last week, after Attorney General William Barr announced a nationwide plan to address the crisis of missing and slain indigenous people, Yakama scholar and historian Emily Washines noted that more than 34 Native women are missing or were murdered on or near the Yakama reservation.
The Washington Legislature allocated funds for the new tribal liaison positions earlier this year. According to the job description posted in late September, one position would be located in Olympia and the other in Eastern Washington.
Their responsibilities include developing best practices for law enforcement response to missing person reports for indigenous people. They will work with family members when missing person reports are filed, and help include tribal issues as agency policies and plans are developed.
Gosch has experience working with Native communities as a tribal law enforcement liaison for the past 20 years, the release noted.
“We are thrilled to welcome Ms. Gosch to the team,” said State Patrol Chief John Batiste. “This work will bridge gaps that have existed between law enforcement and previously underrepresented communities.”
The liaisons will help increase trust between governmental organizations and Native communities and break the silence involved when an indigenous person goes missing, Rep. Gina Mosbrucker, R-Goldendale, the bill’s main sponsor, has said.
“When someone becomes missing, all too often there hasn’t been a process to get help for families,” she said after the bill passed the Senate. “Tribal members have reached out to tribal police, city and county officials, and the State Patrol, but no one could tell them what could be done.
“The tribal liaisons will be there to help, and with a protocol in place, investigations can follow through to the completion of the case.”