Dunleavy says he won’t defund police, but thanks protesters for weighing in on injustice

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy speaks about the state’s COVID-19 response from the Atwood Building in Anchorage on March 23, 2020. (Creative Commons photo courtesy Alaska Governor’s Office)

Gov. Mike Dunleavy expressed hope on Wednesday that dialogue in Alaska resulting from the death of George Floyd will lead to improvements.  

“I want to thank those young people that put these protests together … because protesting and voicing your opinion, especially when you see an injustice, is America,” he said. “It’s Alaskan. It’s American too. And there aren’t going to be any changes for the good unless we have that dialogue.”

Dunleavy was speaking for the second time during a COVID-19 news conference about Floyd’s death. Floyd was a black man who was killed while being arrested by Minneapolis police. Video of his last moments has prompted protests across the country and throughout Alaska. 

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Dunleavy again thanked those who participated in protests in Alaska for being peaceful. 

Dunleavy didn’t list specific changes he would advocate for, but said he expects ideas to come from conversations between Alaskans from different backgrounds. 

“We’re going to get there by working together to get there,” he said. “By listening to others, by trying to understand their perspective, by trying to understand how they view life and how others view them, to be able to sit down and listen and then think through some things we can do, not just as individuals, but as government as well. Are there things we can do better and differently?”

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The governor said that the vast majority of law enforcement officers he’s encountered are trying to help others. He described the reactions officers have had to Floyd’s death in police custody. 

“The moment they saw that play out like the rest of us did, a number of them — their heads sunk, they put their head down, because they knew at that moment that there would be a number of folks that would indict all law enforcement officers, paint them all with the same brush,” he said.

Dunleavy said he supports officers in the state, adding that he doesn’t support anybody, whether they’re in law enforcement, politics, law, education, Boy Scouts or churches that hurts or disregards others. 

RELATED: LISTEN: Alaska lacks good data on police killings, researcher says

“Folks have asked me: ‘Am I planning on defunding the police force?’ I’m not planning on defunding the police force,” he said, adding: “As a matter of fact, most Americans do not support that and understand the value of our law enforcement officers.”

He said the state’s crime rate is high relative to others’, adding that it can improve. 

Andrew Kitchenman is the state government and politics reporter for Alaska Public Media and KTOO in Juneau. Reach him at akitchenman@alaskapublic.org.

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