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Thursday, June 26, 2003

ADN Letter of the Day

Governor's rural police cutbacks are not merely staffing decisions

Last October you opined editorially that courts were not the place to decide "staffing levels" of rural police protection, applauding a trial judge's rejection of an Alaska Native suit charging that both the structure and delivery of police protection to off-road Native villages were racially discriminatory. The state funds and deploys para-police, not troopers (or other credentialed and empowered officers), to Alaska's Bush.

Village public safety officers (VPSOs), used nearly exclusively in rural villages, are products of an Alaska version of Canada's long-abandoned "native constable" program. Canadians now prepare Native applicants (like non-Native) to be full-fledged police, capable of deterring and handling all crime, whether urban or rural. Alaska persists in offering less deterrence to the same alcohol-related violence that you once documented in the Pulitzer-winning series "A People in Peril."

Gov. Murkowski has just cut 25 percent of VPSOs, adding no troopers, for 15 villages (13 Native). Do you still view rural police cutbacks as merely "staffing" decisions, inappropriate for court scrutiny for signs of race discrimination in the very different structure and delivery of police service to village Alaska?

-- Steve Conn


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