'It brings hope': Rural communities eager to use new funding
In May, U.S. Attorney General William Barr visited Alaska for four days, touring Anchorage and the rural communities of Bethel, Napaskiak and Galena to see first hand the lack of law enforcement in rural Alaska.
Carmen Pitka, the program director for Bethel's Children Advocacy Center, was in attendance when Barr met with locals at the Tundra Women's Coalition.
"He asked our thoughts on the impacts of child sexual abuse, physical abuse and our thoughts on how he can help or what is it that we need," Pitka said.
Soon after the attorney general left, he declared a law enforcement emergency in rural Alaska and made $6 million immediately available for law enforcement needs in Native villages.
"Our funding agencies that fund the CAC and the TWC, we haven't heard anything from them about what this may look like or if the funding is coming that way," Tundra Women's Coalition Executive Director Eileen Arnold said. "So, in any case, any agency that is on our multidisciplinary team, that includes law enforcement, that includes hospital services, that includes the district attorney. Anyone one of our partners getting more resources is going to help all of us."
While in Alaska, Barr said that everything is on the table when it comes to finding solutions and that includes tailoring the federal grants to match what the native communities need.
"It brings hope, not only for us but for the people that we serve," Pitka said. "Identifying ways how we can use that resource and partner with other agencies within the Bethel region and the smaller communities in the YK Delta."
Barr's announcement came soon after Gov. Mike Dunleavy announced line-item vetoes on funding for the Village Public Safety Officer program.
"It's unique to have such a fast turnover and resources handed out," Arnold said. "So, that's very exciting and we'll really need to work hard and get in sort of the same steps and make sure we're using these resources in a way that makes sense. In a way that responds to the emergencies but also is planning for the future."
Another $4.5 million from The DOJ Office on Community Oriented Policing Services will fund 20 officers by the end of July and has required its agencies to submit plans to tackle the public safety crisis by the end of this month.
Copyright 2019 KTVA. All rights reserved.
MORE NEWS FROM KTVA: