California News

Feather Alert notification system for missing Native Americans touted – Orange County Register

Law enforcement and tribal officials from across the state gathered Friday, March 24 in San Bernardino to tout the state’s newest emergency notification system, one designed to alert the public in real time when Indigenous people go missing under suspicious circumstances.

The Feather Alert system went into effect Jan. 1 as a result of Assembly Bill 1314, authored by Assemblyman James Ramos, D-Highland. California law enforcement and Highway Patrol will activate alerts whenever a Native American goes missing.

At a news conference at the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, Ramos said California now ranks seventh in the nation for unsolved Native American homicides and uninvestigated homicides.

“Tolerance to sit back and do nothing is not an option,” Ramos said. “We moved forward with the state legislature and implemented Feather Alert.”

Friday’s press conference was followed by a panel discussion on the Feather Alert system in the Sheriff’s Boardroom.

Capt. Ken Roberts, Ambert Alert coordinator for the California Highway Patrol, said Feather Alert was added to an already robust alert system that includes Amber Alert, Danger Missing Persons Alert, the Silver Alert – activated when an elderly, intellectually or cognitively disabled person is reported missing and deemed at risk – and the Blue Alert, when a law enforcement officer is killed or seriously injured and that his attacker fled.

“It just adds to the tool belts to aid and assist allied agencies investigating missing persons, and we are able to disseminate real-time information to the public,” Roberts said.

Charles Martin, President of the Morongo Band of Mission Indians, said, “We have created a powerful new tool to protect tribal communities. Implementing Feather Alert is a critical step in addressing the deadly epidemic of missing and murdered Native Americans in California.

He said Native women are murdered at a rate 10 times the national average and Native Americans experience disproportionately higher rates of kidnapping and violent crime.

“When a person is missing, every second counts,” Martin said. “The public and law enforcement notifications that will be issued by the Feather Alert system will provide communities and law enforcement with critical real-time information.”

An article published by the University of North Dakota School of Law in 2021 titled “Silent Crisis” noted that while the number of Native American men, women, and children who have gone missing or been murdered is difficult to assess, data gleaned from the Sovereign Bodies Institute database contained 4,754 cases in the United States and Canada of missing and murdered Indigenous women as of August 2021.

Audit of Proposition 47

Ramos also announced the launch of a state comptroller’s audit of the effectiveness of Proposition 47 in San Bernardino and Riverside counties. The law, which reduced some drug possession and property crime offenses from felonies to misdemeanors, has drawn strong criticism and opposition from the law enforcement community since it was passed in 2014.

The main arguments of law enforcement are that the law, known as the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act, simply failed to achieve its objective and resulted in spikes in crime, primarily property crimes such as burglaries and commercial thefts.

Ramos said he presented his proposal on Tuesday to the Joint Legislative Audit Committee, which approved the audit. He said the audit is the first of its kind since Proposition 47 was passed.

“Today we come together to promote effective public safety by ensuring that all of our families in San Bernardino and Riverside County come first,” Ramos said.

While the law was intended, in part, to ensure that offenders attend drug treatment programs instead of serving long stints in jail or jail, many law enforcement officials said the effort has turned out to be somewhat futile.

Sheriff Shannon Dicus said the state needs to take a close look at the overall impact of Proposition 47 on society and make any necessary adjustments.

“After nine years, the unintended consequences of Proposition 47 continue to affect the quality of life in our communities,” Dicus said. “We continue to see an increase in the homeless population, an increase in the number of our residents struggling with mental health and addiction issues, and an increase in theft-related offences.”

From 2021 to 2022, the county saw a 36% increase in commercial burglaries, a 55% increase in thefts from merchants and a 25% increase in major thefts, Dicus said.

“Support. 47 was called the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act, and from our perspective, I can assure you that our schools in our neighborhoods are far from safer,” said Grant Ward, chairman of the San Bernardino County. Sheriff’s Benefit Association “It’s time to do something different, and this audit is the first step in getting there.”

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