RAPID CITY, S.D. (KELO) — The issue of Missing and Murdered Indigenous People is not just a tribal issue, but extends to county, municipal, state, and federal jurisdictions. That’s why the Department of Justice created the Not Invisible Act Commission to better address the crisis across all levels.

In 2021, the Department of Justice contacted Rapid City Police Chief Don Hedrick to see if he was interested in being a part of a commission working to improve resources and communications to address the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons (MMIP) crisis. He accepted, saying he felt honored to be a part of the process to help address the epidemic.

“To sum it up, the commission is looking for ways to identify issues involving victimization of Native Americans and address crime related to Native Americans,” Hedrick said.

The commission is comprised of law enforcement, like Hedrick, attorneys including Gregg Peterman, of Rapid City, tribal leaders, family and survivors directly impacted by the issue. For Hedrick, joining the commission was another way to serve the Rapid City community while working on a national issue.

“Well, the Rapid City Police Department, we serve a large portion of Native American folks here in our community. Some of the issues that are affecting our nation also affect us here. We do see a disproportionate victimization of our Native American population,” Hedrick explained.

Hedrick serves on two subcommittees within the group: one focusing on law enforcement and investigative resources committee and the other dealing with recruitment and retention of tribal law enforcement. 

“I think what we have been doing to this point is we’ve been looking at, what are tribal entities doing in regard to recruiting and retention versus what are state and federal entities doing? What’s going well here? What can be brought to the tribal component?” Hedrick said.

Hedrick said in South Dakota, there is a well-established network of communication between law enforcement agencies across the state. He hopes the commission will not only be able to improve that communication, but help tribal law enforcement and other states improve the work they do.

“I think for us, as we identify best practices, really, creating those personal relationships so that you can communicate when you need to is going to be important,” he said. “I think it’s something that I’m going to be able to speak to, from our experience here in our community.”

One of the roadblocks in dealing with the MMIP crisis across the country is navigating the many different jurisdictions between city, county, state, federal and sovereign tribal land.

“That is one of the primary focuses of this commission is to try to identify better ways for state, federal, local tribal entities to work together better. I’m finding this is an issue in a lot of places where you just don’t have that communication or there’s jurisdictional blocks,” Hedrick said.

In South Dakota, the Attorney General’s office is working to create a position that would help navigate jurisdictions and better the communication for all law enforcement in South Dakota, whether state or tribal.