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Lawmakers propose task force on missing, murdered African American women

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Florida Politics
Jesse Scheckner
December 8, 2023

A disproportionate share of Florida women and girls who go missing yearly are African American. Two state lawmakers now want to assemble a panel to investigate why, and how to address the problem.

Tamarac Sen. Rosalind Osgood and Miami Gardens Rep. Felicia Robinson have filed legislation (SB 354, HB 325) to establish a “Task Force on Missing and Murdered African-American Women” and earmark $150,000 for its yearlong operation.

The group, which would work within the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), would be tasked with advising the Department’s Executive Director and making recommendations to the Legislature on reducing violence against Black women and girls.

“The urgency of finding missing African American women demands a dedicated task force,” Osgood said in a statement. “The disproportionately high number of missing persons and the systemic issues that contribute to these disparities call for special attention. We must stand firm in our commitment to justice, equality, and the safety of all individuals.”

Data from the Florida Crime Information Center, an FDLE public access system, shows a marked racial discrepancy in missing women across the state. Of 123,869 women who went missing in Florida from Jan. 1, 2018, to Oct. 17, 2023, 44% were African American.

By comparison, just 17% of the state population is Black or African American, according to the most recently available Census data.

Florida’s rate of missing people of color exceeds the national average, according to a Census data review by the nonprofit Black and Missing Foundation, which found 39% of missing people are African American.

Task force members, of whom there would be at least 12, would have to be appointed by Sept. 1, 2024, and begin meeting within a month. Appointments would come from, among other sources, the Senate, House, law enforcement associations, legal groups and statewide advocacy organizations.

They would have to examine and report on systemic causes behind violence against African American women and girls, methods for tracking and collecting data on the matter and measures necessary to reduce and eliminate the problem while helping victims, their families and communities.

The panel would have to turn in a report Dec. 15, 2025. Sixteen days later, the group would disband.

“Investigating the disproportionate trends of missing and murdered African-American women is not just a matter of justice; it’s a matter of fulfilling our society’s commitment to equality and protection,” Robinson said in a statement. “To turn a blind eye to these injustices is to undermine the very principles upon which our society is built.”

SB 354 and HB 325 await a hearing before the first of three committees to which each were referred, respectively. If approved, the legislation would go into effect immediately.

Photo credit: Florida Politics

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