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Serious Problems With Law Enforcement in Some Parts of Alaska

The rural /urban divide in Alaska

There is a significant difference in crime prevention and detection between remote, often indigenous, communities in Alaska and the large cities like Anchorage. A recent article in the Anchorage Daily News highlighted the problem of crime and crime prevention in many of Alaska’s remote communities. The article’s focus was on the shortage of police personnel in many of these communities. Whether state budget cuts are to blame, or simply because not enough suitable cops want to go and work in these communities, it does seem that it’s hard to police them. The article reported that every police officer appointed recently in one community of nearly 700 had a criminal conviction, including the chief of police.

The Daily News reported that in the village of Stebbins, one person, Nimeron Mike, got a job as a police officer the same day that he applied. Mike, according to the report, had previously been convicted for a number of quite serious offences, including driving offences, assault, vehicle theft and sexual assault.

The Stebbins example doesn’t seem to be a one off. According to the Daily News, 159 police officers were identified in 50 administrations around Alaska that employed officers. Of the 159, 42 were reported to have had previous convictions for serious offences such as assault. It is not normally acceptable for officers to be employed who have been convicted of such serious offences.

The main problem here is how reliable evidence is likely to be from a police officer who has been appointed with a record of violent crimes. For a start, most of the untrained or poorly trained police officers the article focuses on are Village Police Officers (VPOs) or Tribal Police Officers (TPOs). The better paid and better trained Village Public Safety Officers (VPSOs) are apparently in short supply with many smaller communities having no VPSOs at all. The highest paid and best trained officers are state troopers, most of whom concentrate on offences n state highways and are nowhere to be seen in smaller communities.

The situation is not nearly as critical here in Anchorage. The Daily News does not give any indication what the record of serving police officers is here in the state’s largest metropolis, but it is unlikely to be anything similar to what happens elsewhere. The Anchorage Police Department, for example, reports that for every police officer recruited, there are 18 applicants. Rigorous background character and criminal conviction checks are made of applicants and the sorts of convictions that rural police officers appear to have had would prevent an officer being employed in the city.

Just how serious is assault

By all accounts, domestic violence and assault is common in this state, but then the media often thrives on bad news. Assault is certainly a serious criminal charge anywhere in the U.S., including Alaska, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that every person accused of assault is guilty of it. Cases of domestic violence, for instance, that are often classified as assaults, are often hard to prove, unless there are reliable witnesses or other evidence available that prosecutors can use to achieve a conviction.

Assault is classified into four separate offences. Assault in the first, second and third degree are all felony offences, while assault in the first degree is a misdemeanor. The most serious assault charge, assault in the first degree, could lead to incarceration of anywhere up to 20 years and a fine of up to $250,000. Even a misdemeanor assault could mean a jail sentence of up to a year and a fine of up to $10,000.

The reliability conundrum

Assaults are reported to be commonplace right across Alaska, but no-one can be considered guilty unless there is proof beyond doubt that the person committed the offence. In which case, how can those who have already been convicted of assault and other serious crimes reliably be allowed to have any influence on deciding the fate of anyone who is suspected of carrying out an offence themselves?

If you have been accused of a serious crime, but believe you are innocent, you should contact criminal defense attorney, Dattan Scott Dattan, as soon as possible. He will vigorously defend your innocence, negotiate a plea bargain or will fight to represent you in court. You can contact the Law Office of Dattan Scott Dattan in Anchorage at 907-276-8008.

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Law Office of Dattan Scott Dattan

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