In late 2019, the Washington State Legislature approved the hiring of two Tribal Liaisons with the Washington State Patrol. Per legislation, one position is in Western Washington, while the other is in Eastern Washington. Although in different parts of the state, together the liaisons are tasked with building trust between the government, law enforcement agencies and the native communities.
Patti Gosch was the first full-time Tribal Liaison to be hired in late 2019. Due to the pandemic’s impact on budget and hiring, Dawn Pullin, our second Tribal Liaison in Eastern Washington, wasn’t hired until late 2020.
Patti, in her two decades working for Northwest High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (NWHIDTA), was the Tribal Liaison. As a Tribal Liaison with NWHIDTA, she was a persuasive advocate for Tribal Law Enforcement at the State and National levels where she helped build bridges between tribal and non-tribal law enforcement, creating long standing partnerships. In 2009 she authored the report, “Criminal Exploitation of Washington State Tribal Lands.” One of the first documents of its type, it has been described as a living document, a copy of which was requested in Washington DC before it was published.
Dawn, a citizen of the Spokane Tribe herself, has over 20 years of experience working and serving the Native community. She has worked for a variety of tribal organizations, from the Indian Health Service as a contracting officer to the chief executive officer for the Spokane Tribal Enterprises. Pullin was also the director the Spokane Tribe’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. “As a tribal citizen, I want to be part of the solution and invest myself in the efforts of addressing our missing and murdered indigenous people,” says Dawn. Dawn is no stranger to heartbreak, as her own mother was murdered on her reservation.
Families will call either Liaison, asking for assistance with finding their loved one. “In some cases, missing persons won’t be reported to law enforcement. One way we’re bridging the gap is by helping these families make reports with their local law enforcement so they can be entered into the system (NCIC),” says Patti.
The National Crime Information Center (NCIC) is a universal system that all law enforcement agencies across the nation use. “Entering a missing person into NCIC is the most effective tool to aid law enforcement across the country in finding them,” remarks Patti. An email distribution list is sent to units within law enforcement agencies that specialize in missing persons cases. Missing person’s posters are also sent to Community Advocacy and Grassroots Groups across the state. Information can be shared quickly, and electronically to our partners who in turn distribute the information with their associates. Recently, information regarding a missing person was shared by law enforcement with social workers and retail security, and the individual was located within days of the missing report.
It wasn’t until recently, on June 11, 2020, a new law was enacted that required all missing persons, including those over 18, to be entered into NCIC. Prior to this law, only those under the age of 18 were entered in NCIC. In addition, law enforcement agencies now have to enter a missing person within 30 days of receiving the report.
The Native population represent 1.9 percent of Washington State’s population according to the 2019 population estimates by the U.S. Census, and account for 6 percent of Washington’s active missing persons reports. The actual number of missing Native Americans is likely much higher, as Native persons are often inaccurately reported or listed as white in law enforcement data bases.
Both Liaisons have found themselves working with law enforcement agencies across the United States and into Canada. While challenges can arise, the WSP and our Tribal Liaisons are dedicated to building strong relationships, finding answers, and finding our missing Indigenous women, girls, two-spirited, men and boys in our community.
Below is a list of the missing from our Native community in Washington State. Photos can only be included with a photo release from the victim’s family. If you have information about a missing person, please contact the reporting agency. Washington State Patrol does not supervise other agency investigations.
WSP would like to thank the family of Randy Capoeman (1958-2008) – Quinault Nation – for allowing us to share his artwork. We are honoring Randy by using this piece as the Tribal Liaison logo.