Justice Department to send millions to rural Alaska law enforcement

In May, U.S. Attorney General William Barr heard concerns from Alaska Native leaders about the lack of law enforcement and high rates of sexual assault and domestic violence in rural Alaska. (Photo by Joey Mendolia / Alaska Public Media)

The Justice Department announced Thursday how it plans to spend millions of dollars of federal money promised by Attorney General William Barr to deal with public safety problems in rural communities.

After visiting Alaska in May, Barr declared a “law enforcement emergency” over the lack of access to basic protections for many rural Alaskans. The move frees up nearly $11 million in funding from federal law enforcement programs. Now, an anti-violence working group has decided where a portion of that money ought to go. The state will also get three new federal prosecutors who will be based in its Anchorage office but focused on rural Alaska.

Some of the money announced by the U.S. Attorney’s Office does not yet have a designated target. $6 million was awarded to the state’s Department of Public Safety, which decided that the best way to address “domestic violence, sexual assault, and other violent crimes” is to give the money to local communities and tribal entities. Starting October 1, groups can apply for funds that could go toward “infrastructure projects, such as holding cells.” There is a push for more recruitment and retention of rural law enforcement, including Village Police Officers and Tribal Police Officers.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office included a list of which tribal agencies will receive funds for equipment and hiring under the Community Oriented Policing Services Grant.

Another $5 million is already earmarked. The U.S. Attorney’s Office included a list of tribal entities across the state set to receive hundreds of thousands of dollars for equipment and 20 new positions in total.

Correction: An earlier version of this story mistakenly mentioned that only one of communities receiving grant funds is on the road system.

Zachariah Hughes reports on city & state politics, arts & culture, drugs, and military affairs in Anchorage and South Central Alaska.

@ZachHughesAK About Zachariah

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