On June 28, 2019 the U.S. Department of Justice declared a law enforcement emergency in rural Alaska and announced new funding for the law enforcement needs of Alaska Native villages. This funding includes $6 million dollars for the State of Alaska to hire law enforcement officers in rural Alaska, and another $4.5 million dollars that will be available to Alaska Native villages for similar purposes. The Department of Justice also announced a series of additional measures, including a sexual assault training program and a new Rural Alaska Violent Crime Reduction Working Group led by U.S. Attorney Bryan Schroder. This announcement follows the Attorney General’s recent trip to Alaska, including the Native Village of Napaskiak, where the Attorney General and Senator Murkowski met with Native leaders and saw firsthand the impact of decades of failed state and federal response to criminal justice issues in Alaska Native villages.
Studies have found that Alaska Native women are subjected to the highest rate of forcible sexual assault in the country, that one in two Alaska Native women will experience sexual or physical violence, and that every 18 hours, an Alaska Native woman is sexually assaulted. Despite these shocking crime rates, at least 75 Alaska Native communities are without any law enforcement presence whatsoever. “Increased funding, sustained work to build government and justice capacity in the villages, and law and policy reforms to recognize Alaska Native villages' sovereignty are all essential to tackle the problems,” said Jana Walker, Indian Law Resource Center senior attorney. “These resources are welcome and much needed, but given the scale of the problem much more is urgently needed.”
The Department of Justice press release about the law enforcement emergency declaration is available at https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/attorney-general-william-p-barr-announces-emergency-funding-address-public-safety-crisis.