Minnesota House Bill Would Create Office of Missing and Murdered Black Women and Girls

The first such office in the US could be created if the bill receives approval from the Minnesota State Senate and governor.

On Monday, the Minnesota state House passed a bill creating the first Office of Missing and Murdered Black Women and Girls in the United States. While the bill passed with 110 in favor and 19 opposed, to become law, it must still be approved by the Senate and signed by Governor Tim Walz.

Black women in Minnesota have nearly triple the murder rate of White women, according to a state report by the Missing and Murdered African American Task Force. Speaking to Minnesota Public Radio, chief author of the bill, Rep. Ruth Richardson quoted some difficult facts.  She said, “with domestic violence Black women make up 7 percent of our state's population, but they're more than 40 percent of the reported domestic violence cases.”

An estimated 60,000 Black women are missing in the United States. The Minnesota Missing and Murdered African American Task Force study found Black women are nearly three times more likely to be murdered than white women in Minnesota.  The study also determined that investigations into the murders of Black women and girls took four times as long as those into the murders of white women and girls. The research suggests that less attention is paid to the disappearance and murder of Black women than of white women in the national media.

“I want to be clear that this office is not asking for more attention,” Richardson said, according to the Minnesota Reformer, in discussing the need for the legislation.. “It’s about getting the same attention, and it’s about having our lives honored in the same way. We matter, and we deserve the same energy and coverage in our cases.”

During the following two years, the initiative would cost the Legislature roughly $2.5 million. Grants totaling $900,000 would be distributed annually between the Office of Missing and Murdered Black Women and Girls and the Office of Missing and Murdered Black Men. The yearly cost of a public education campaign regarding the office would be $50,000.

Minnesota Task Force Will Examine Violence Against Black Women And Girls

The agency would aid in studying the issue, gathering information, solving cold cases, and lobbying for laws to protect Black women and girls from assault. In addition, the bill calls for the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to set up and operate a missing persons alert system.

Richardson mentioned the deaths of Brittany Clardy and Taylor Hayden on the House floor. Members of their families were present to watch the voting from the House gallery.

Proponents claim that law enforcement officials sometimes disregard family reports of violence against Black women and girls, but part of the mission of the office seeks to change that.

The legislation takes inspiration from the Office of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives, which opened in Minnesota in 2021 as the first such office in the US.

Instead of forming an office, Republicans wanted to donate the money to the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and use the grant money for a reward fund.

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