Alaska “Fundamentally on Wrong Track” on Rural Law Enforcement

ANCHORAGE: Wednesday in Anchorage, the bipartisan Indian Law and Order Commission (ILOC) slammed the Parnell Administration’s record on rural law enforcement, saying that Alaska is “fundamentally on the wrong track.”

The ILOC recommended strengthening tribal sovereignty as a means to reduce violence in rural areas, but the Parnell Administration responded with a lengthy letter that said “we disagree with the means you suggest to accomplish that goal” of reducing violence.

“We think Alaska is fundamentally on the wrong track with how it deals with Alaska Natives, with an issue so important as sovereignty and self-determination,” said ILOC Chairman Troy Eid, a Republican and former United States Attorney appointed by George W. Bush. “I would hold my conservative credentials to Attorney General Geraghty’s of the governor’ anytime,” Eid said yesterday as he criticized the Parnell record.

The Indian Law and Order Commission was established by Congress in 2010 with legislation supported by the Alaska delegation. In its recently-issued report, ILOC said Alaska has the highest rates of domestic and sexual violence while tribal governments have the least ability to address those crimes locally. The Commission characterized the lack of tribal sovereignty as “indefensibly expensive to all Alaskans in terms of the human and economic toll.”

ILOC head Troy Eid said that when the Commission visited Tanana, “A woman comes up to you in a room and says you know what Troy, every woman in this room, everyone of us have been raped. And people start to nod their heads. She said it’s not just some of us, it’s not just the two thirds you read about, it’s not the fact that it is ten times the reported average than the rest of the United States for aggravated sexual assaults against women, its everyone that you have met. I know these people I grew up with them, they have all been raped.”

The ILOC report focuses on reducing domestic violence in Alaska, noting “The situation in Alaska is urgent…and of national importance…The Commission’s findings and conclusions represent the unanimous view of nine independent citizens, Republicans and Democrats alike: It is the Commission’s considered finding that Alaska’s approach to criminal justice issues is fundamentally on the wrong track.” Moreover, the Commission found that responsibility for rampant crime in rural Alaska “lies primarily with the State’s justice system.”

In his presentation yesterday, Troy Eid elaborated, saying “And we think that very strongly that the role that nations, in this case Alaska Native Nations have ought to be respected, not just by the Federal Government but by the State Government.”

The ILOC report made several recommendations to reduce crime in rural Alaska, including collaborating with tribes on other criminal justice issues, deputizing tribes to provide a wide array of criminal justice services, and adopting a policy of state deference to tribal authority in tribal communities. These recommendations are the polar opposite of Parnell Administration efforts to undermine tribal sovereignty through the Kaltag, Minto, and other court cases. As Attorney General Geraghty’s letter in response to the ILOC report makes clear, the Parnell Administration will continue to oppose tribal sovereignty even though such opposition has been found to exacerbate rural violence.