Dozens of Alaska Villages Have No Police At All
Dozens of Alaska communities still have no police to protect their residents. “Every community deserves public safety. Letting a criminal assault community members, with no protection from any police officer isn’t justice, it’s negligence,” said Mike Williams, Sr. and Les Gara in a joint statement today.
“All Alaskans deserve a safe place to live. Rural Alaska deserves equal public safety treatment. That’s not possible when dozens of villages have no police at all,“ said Williams.
“It’s 2022, too many rural Alaskans are stuck with 19th Century law enforcement. It’s one of the side effects of pretending you can run a state without revenue,” said Gara. Gara has proposed ending $1.3 billion in oil company tax credit subsidies that make Alaska too poor to address its biggest problems.
Williams sued 2 decades ago for equal public safety treatment in rural Alaska. He has remained an advocate for safe police protection for communities that have no police. Both men are calling on the Governor to present a plan for a state-funded Village Public Safety Officer or the equivalent in at least every community that has a school and post office.
“Alaska has ducked major problems by intentionally making itself poor, while the Governor just rearranges the chairs on the Titanic. For 39 months he’s presented no plan to put police protection in every community,” said Gara.
In 2021 a gun wielding assailant put people in peril in the Village of Kake, which had no police. In the Village of Russian Mission, a child was sexually assaulted, duct taped, beaten by a club and kidnapped, all without any law enforcement in the community for protection.
Law enforcement shortages plague rural and urban Alaska, and need to be addressed, said Gara. Even in urban Alaska the Governor promised 17 new Troopers and staff to solve shortages in the Mat-Su Valley. But it became evident at a February legislative hearing that the Governor proposed no funding to hire any of those promised safety officers.
“The problem is much worse in villages that have no law enforcement at all. We have a system where a rapist can victimize someone, and terrorize her with no worry about any immediate law enforcement,” said Williams.
“The problems include a lack of officer housing, a lack of funding, and, mostly, a lack of a plan to solve a problem that doesn’t require rocket science. It takes a Governor’s interest and leadership,” said Gara.
Numbers in the Yukon-Kuskokwim show the problem. There are only 5 VPSO’s in 48 VPSO-eligible villages according to Association of Village Council Presidents, which manages inadequate state VPSO funds. Requests for state support for needed officers, officer housing and suspect holding rooms have gone unheeded by the Governor.
The Department of Public Safety lists over 200 villages and communities eligible for a Village Public Safety Officer. The state only funds 55 VPSOs. While dozens of communities have no law enforcement at all, state statistics don’t show which communities have a federal funded Tribal Police Officer (who only has authority over tribal laws), or a lower-paid, locally funded Village Police Officer.