U.S. Attorney Bryan Schroder, the District of Alaska attorney, has released additional details on statewide efforts to address the public safety crisis in rural Alaska. Those came through a press release on Thursday, September 12.
The Emergency Federal Law Enforcement Assistance program awarded $6 million to the Department of Public Safety (DPS) in July. Those were made available after Attorney General William Barr declared a “law enforcement emergency in Alaska” last spring. That funding is meant for infrastructure projects, like holding cells or office space, and is expected to be available in early October. According to the release, the DPS is working to develop a grant solicitation process so that tribes and communities can apply for a portion of those funds when they become available.
The Alaska Police Standards Counsel is trying to respond to the crisis by reaching out more to rural communities. Bob Griffiths, executive director of the counsel, says they have been able to reach about half of the roughly 115 communities eligible to be served by Village Police Officers (VPOs). He wants to create a dialogue with rural communities:
“And assure that they’re aware that we’re there to assist them as they try to hire and staff village police officer positions. We’re there to help them screen applicants and assure that they meet the state’s minimum criteria. And to provide them with training or at least assist them in getting that training.”
Those interested in serving rural Alaska may not have to go so far out of the region. The release announced that Yuut Elitnaurviat in Bethel is adding an additional academy for VPOs and tribal police officers.
In addition to the $6 million in emergency funds, an extra $5 million is being dispersed throughout selected communities for hiring, equipping and training of VPOs. That comes through the Tribal Resources Grant Program, part of the DOJ’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services.
Image at top: David Dodman, KNOM file.