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Montana Hires Two Missing Persons Specialists

Left: Misty LaPlant, Right: Tina Chamberlain
Montana Department of Justice
Left: Misty LaPlant, Right: Tina Chamberlain

Montana Attorney General Tim Fox announced Monday he’s hired two specialists to help address the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women.

Monday is Misty LaPlant’s first day as the Montana Department of Justice’s Missing Persons Specialist. It’s one of two positions created last legislative session to tackle this trend: American Indians make up a third of missing persons cases in Montana while only accounting for 6.6 percent of the state population.

“I’m just, I don’t know, I can’t explain my excitement on helping to minimize those numbers,” LaPlant says.

LaPlant, who’s Blackfeet, says she’ll do that by increasing coordination between different state, federal and tribal agencies. She says wants to lift the jurisdictional barriers she witnessed during her time as a Blackfeet law enforcement officer. Her role, created by the House bill known as Hanna’s Act, is supposed to help streamline the process of reporting and investigating missing persons cases.

Her colleague Tina Chamberlain will join LaPlant at the agency as the first Looping in Native Communities coordinator, a role created by another act from the last legislative session. Her primary responsibility will be to help secure funding for a state database that tracks missing persons cases.

Chamberlain comes to the agency from the Montana Bureau of Crime Control, where she oversaw federal grants geared towards helping crime victims.

She starts later this week.

Olivia Reingold is Yellowstone Public Radio’s Report for America corps member.