Alaskan villages want state to improve law enforcement


In 1999, the Alaska Inter-Tribal Council and the Alaska Native Justice Center filed a lawsuit against the State of Alaska, saying the state provides a lesser standard of law enforcement in off-road villages.

They say this difference amounts to a racially separate, unequal level of treatment.

During the trial, now underway in Anchorage, the residents and Native villages who filed the suit have said the unarmed officers serving 75 native villages are ill-trained, underpaid and plagued by high turnover.

In rural Alaska, state troopers generally are posted in regional centres, while smaller communities have peace-keeping officers.

State troopers may be anywhere from an hour to days away when trouble hits an off-road village, compared to an average response time of 45 minutes to a town on the road system.

Village public safety officers receive only about one-sixth the training certified troopers and police officers receive, and they’re supposed to contact an “oversight trooper” before acting on a felony complaint.

The VSPOs, as they are called, are authorized to use weapons in emergency situations to protect themselves or other people, but they don’t receive the same training that certified officers receive to know when to use deadly force.

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