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Washington State News

Chief investigator hired to lead AG Ferguson’s Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and People Cold Case Unit

Veteran investigator and tribal member Brian George to lead new unit

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SEATTLE — Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced today that Brian George, a 27-year law enforcement veteran and enrolled member of the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe, will lead the investigations work for the office’s Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and People Cold Case Unit. It is the first unit of its kind in the nation.

The cold case unit’s primary purpose is to assist local and tribal law enforcement agencies to solve cold cases involving missing and murdered Indigenous women and people. The unit will be housed within the Attorney General’s Criminal Justice Division.

George comes to the office following more than 25 years of service with the Washington State Patrol, most recently as the director of the Washington State Fusion Center. The Fusion Center supports federal, state, and tribal agencies, regional and local law enforcement, public safety and homeland security by providing intelligence and information statewide. He started his career as an officer with the Suquamish Tribal Police Department.

“Hiring a leader for my office’s new cold case unit is an important step as we pursue justice and accountability in these cases,” Ferguson said. “Our first-of-its kind unit represents the commitment of our state to do all we can to support law enforcement and Indigenous families affected by this crisis.”

“It’s taken a lot of work to get to this point, and there’s more to do,” George said. “This is meaningful, important work supporting law enforcement in bringing closure to families who have been waiting too long. I’m eager to get started.”

In addition to George, the unit will include investigators and a case navigator whose primary function is to work with and maintain regular, consistent communication with families of missing and murdered Indigenous women and people, and to convey information between the investigators and families using culturally appropriate and trauma informed practices. The office is reviewing applications for the investigator positions, and expects to post the navigator position this month.

American Indian and Alaskan Native women and people experience violence at much higher rates than other populations. The National Centers for Disease Control & Prevention reports that homicide is the sixth-leading cause of death for Indigenous women and girls and the third-leading cause of death for Indigenous men. A recent federal study reported that Native American women are murdered at rates 10 times the national average in some jurisdictions.

According to data from the Homicide Investigation Tracking System in the Attorney General’s Office, Indigenous victims are 5% of the unresolved cases throughout the state, while making up less than 2% of the population. Due to reporting practices, racial misclassification, data collection and jurisdictional issues, the actual disparity is likely even more significant.

Background on the Cold Case Unit

In 2021, the Attorney General’s Office convened the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and People Task Force. In 2022, the Task Force unanimously recommended the creation of a cold case unit in the Attorney General’s Office focused on cases involving Indigenous people.

In 2023, Attorney General Bob Ferguson partnered with Rep. Debra Lekanoff, D-Anacortes, and Senator Manka Dhingra, D-Redmond, to propose legislation creating a Cold Case Investigations Unit focused on solving cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women and people.

The bill passed unanimously and was signed into law by Governor Inslee.

For more information on the MMIWP Task Force, visit the Task Force’s web page at https://www.atg.wa.gov/washington-state-missing-and-murdered-indigenous-women-and-people-task-force.

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