(Edward Kimmel | Creative Commons)

(Edward Kimmel | Creative Commons)

Opinion: There is police violence in Alaska

There are many things Alaska could do better.

  • Thursday, June 4, 2020 10:45pm
  • Opinion

In the conversations Alaskans have been having this last week around police violence, I have noticed a sentiment expressed by some, that even if we stand in solidarity with those protesting George Floyd’s death, we do so from a distance, because we don’t have those same problems at home. But according to the Mapping Police Violence Project, which has analyzed documented police killings over six years between 2013 and 2018, Alaska has the second-highest rates of police violence in the nation, averaging more than eight police killings per year in our state of about 700,000 people, and the second-highest rates of police violence against indigenous people and black people in the country. Out of a population of only 24,000, police in Alaska killed five black men over the same six-year period.

The combination of a small population, far-flung communities and willful white ignorance may make it seem like this is a problem isolated to far off cities like Minneapolis or Saint Louis, but the problem is right here in our own communities and not only in Anchorage.

As recently as December, Kelly Louise Stephens was shot dead by Juneau police officers, his only crime that night swinging a dog chain. Violent over-policing isn’t limited to lethal cases. Look no further than the case of Christopher Netling, who was shot in the back through the seat of his car, for refusing to leave the car, or the case of Franklin Hoogendorn, an Alaska Native high school student who was stripped to his underwear in a Sitka jail cell and tased 10 times.

Alaska, yes even places we white people want to think are idyllic paradises like our wonderful island communities in Southeast, have a problem with police violence. It won’t get better until we take the blinders off. We need to do more than stand in solidarity with George Floyd, we need to make meaningful changes in our own communities.

There are many things Alaska could do better, like creating a mental health first responder program similar to the successful program in Eugene, Oregon, that sends mental health professionals to mental health crises, instead of sending armed cops. There are police union contracts to be renegotiated, policies to be changed and much more than can fit in one letter. I encourage my white neighbors to do some research. The organization Campaign Zero, whose goal is to end police killings in America, has a long list of proven effective strategies to reduce police violence. I am glad that both Juneau and Sitka now have Alaska Native police chiefs, but there is still a long road to eliminating police violence in our communities.

• Matthew Jackson is a resident of Sitka and Juneau.

More in Opinion

Opinion: A balanced approach is needed for oil tax rates

For the good of Alaska and the future of the state, please vote no on Proposition 1.

Opinion: Alaska and America’s very survival are at stake this election year

There’s only one choice for this Marine and others who treasure our democracy.

Alaskans helped make PFD filing a success

Moving forward, we will continue to strive for improvements that benefit all Alaskans.

Ballot Measure 1 — The Very Fair Share Act

I am betting the oil industry can afford to pay a greater share.

In this Aug. 25, 2017, file photo, provided by NOAA Fisheries, a newborn beluga whale calf sticks its head out of the water in upper Cook Inlet, Alaska. (NOAA Fisheries via AP, File)
Voices of the Peninsula: Cook Inlet’s pollution double standard

If fishermen can’t flush a head in Cook Inlet, why should Hilcorp be allowed to dump toxic waste?

Former Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell
Opinion: Sen. Dan Sullivan: Alaska’s authentic fighter

Dan consistently pushes back against federal overreach and protects our access to federal lands.

Some lawmakers think the Legislature should reconvene in Juneau and appropriate federal COVID-19 relief funds. The governor and others at the Capitol want to get the money out as fast as possible. (Peter Segall | Juneau Empire File)
Alaska Voices: Alaskans should be honest with each other

Next year we are projected to receive only half the revenue we need to cover projected spending.

Point of View: ‘Tis the season of the vote

I believe we all want our voices heard.

Most Read