Rep. Ruth Richardson (DFL-Mendota Heights) says there is an “unacceptable crisis” in the state’s Black population.
And in presenting HF55 to the House Public Safety Finance and Policy Committee Thursday, Richardson cited a long list of reasons why an Office for Missing and Murdered Black Women and Girls is needed:
And there’s an urgency in these distressing statistics, Richardson said, as they are rapidly getting worse.
“Behind these numbers are real people and real families that are devastated," she said. "We must do better, we can do better, and Black women and girls deserve better.”
The committee approved the bill, as amended, and sent it to the House Judiciary Finance and Civil Law Committee.
Richardson said the bill would enact recommendations in the December 2022 report of the Missing and Murdered African American Women Task Force and would be dedicated to preventing and ending the targeting of violence against Black women and girls.
Artika Roller, executive director of Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault, said the office would build accountability, leverage responsibility, and facilitate resources and services to reduce and prevent violence against Black women and girls.
Roller and several other Black testifiers who were victims of violence, or family members of victims of violence, identified what they see as a common theme: Law enforcement agencies have routinely failed to adequately investigate crimes that victimize Black women and girls.
Proof of this is in the dismal statistics cited at the committee hearing, Roller said.
Richardson also acknowledged the failures of law enforcement to adequately address the violence and trauma disproportionally experienced by Black women and girls, which she said has led to a “disturbing trend of too many families feeling alone as they conduct their own investigations looking for answers.”
Managed by the Office of Justice Programs in the Department of Public Safety, duties of the office would include reviewing cold cases for missing Black women and girls, and death investigation reviews of Black women and girls ruled as a suicide or an overdose under suspicious circumstances.
It would also distribute grants to community-based organizations to “provide services designed to prevent or end the targeting of Black women or girls, or to provide assistance to victims of offenses that targeted Black women or girls.”
The bill would appropriate $700,000 in fiscal year 2024 and $650,000 in fiscal year 2025 to fund the office.