Arron Julian, a member of the Jicarilla Apache Nation of New Mexico, was hired on in November as the Director of the Office of Liaison for Missing or Murdered Indigenous Relatives (MMIR) for the state of Colorado, the position is based in Denver.
Julian’s position was established through the action of the Senate Bill (SB) 22-150 bill signed into law on July 8, 2022, by Colorado Governor Jared Polis, which also created the Office of Liaison for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives.
“The diligent work of the Tribe in collaboration with the State of Colorado led to the passing of SB22-150, which established the office of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives. We are grateful for the experience and additional support that Mr. Julian is able to provide to our community,” Southern Ute Chairman Melvin J. Baker stated.
The bill was co-written by the grassroots Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives Taskforce – founded in 2021. “Initially in writing the bill it was all of us [the taskforce] partnering with Senator [Jessie] Danielson and former Senator Joseph,” explained SASO Assistant Director and MMIR Taskforce Member, Kelsey Lansing when discussing the creation of the bill. “Getting a group together to talk about the potential of having a bill and what that would mean – and what would we want in the bill. From there, continuous edits and support while also bringing attention to or bringing awareness of missing and murdered Indigenous relatives in Colorado.”
With the creation of SB-22-150, the act will require the state’s Department of Public Safety to begin improvements within the investigation process in cases relating to Indigenous peoples to help prevent the lack of severity in the response to cases within the state’s criminal justice system.
“This program is to provide all the resources we can in training, education, prevention and awareness to missing individuals,” Julian said. “Should there be a Native that is murdered, we will provide resources from the state and do everything we can to help the community. We can also do victim services that can also respond and help the victim [and families] and crime – we will be the liaison for resources.”
Julian holds over 36 years of experience in law enforcement and has previously served as the Chief of Police for the Bishop Paiute Tribe located in California and the Sexual Assault Team Coordinator for the San Carlos Apache Tribe of Arizona. According to a press release from the Colorado Department of Public Safety, Julian’s role as the Sexual Assault Team Coordinator aided in creating policies and procedures in evidence collection and helped enhance delivery of services to those victims of sexual assaults taken to hospitals.
“I have investigated many different cases involving missing individuals and bringing as much resolutions as I could for murdered native individuals,” Julian explained when talking about his previous work. “I helped prosecute and bring investigations to many cases for over 20 years.” Along with his work with Indigenous tribes across the United States, Julian also served as an operations manager for the U.S. Embassy Security Force located in Baghdad as a Civilian Contractor with the State Department.
The Senate Bill also outlines duties that will be taken by the department including, assisting with the investigation of cases, collecting data and reporting, aiding, and taking appropriate actions in jurisdiction, developing and facilitating training relating to MMIR issues, as well as providing assistance and crisis intervention for those families affected. The office will work for all Indigenous peoples who reside in the state as well as those any person traveling through who may go missing.
The office of liaisons will also work with local groups, organizations, and authorities to ensure that missing individuals in urban and rural areas receive proper profiling, so they are found within quicker response times.
“When we look at the names and locations, they are coming from urban settings,” Lansing said when discussing jurisdiction and location. “[The La Plata County] area is completely different from Colorado Springs or Denver, so a search is not going to be the same. Understanding those different issues around terrain or location or understanding jurisdiction are important when working with missing and murdered Indigenous relatives. I really think we need to pay attention to the areas that people are missing and then the expertise that an organization or group might have at that location.”
The Office of Liaisons is currently working to improve resources by starting a pilot program that includes a training curriculum related to MMIR for police and authorities around the state. This program will help integrate Indigenous cultural components and cultural sensitivity and is expected to be implemented in all police academies in the state. There are also plans for an Amber Alert like program to be created, focusing on missing Indigenous relatives within the state, and is expected to be launched at the beginning of 2023.
“Native community is very important to the state of Colorado, that is why this legislation was approved,” Julian said. “I want to say thank you to the MMIR task force in Denver for the information and for doing everything they can to help the community. We are here to help.”