Mack
August 3, 2014 10:17 AM   Subscribe

 
Incredibly heartbreaking.
posted by kittensofthenight at 10:48 AM on August 3, 2014


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posted by TwoStride at 11:07 AM on August 3, 2014


And as always.. avoid the comments. *sigh*
posted by drewbage1847 at 11:07 AM on August 3, 2014


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posted by Foci for Analysis at 11:25 AM on August 3, 2014


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posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:28 AM on August 3, 2014


None of this is exaggerated.

I do not know one Alaska Native family, of the dozens to whom I am close, that has not lost a child to murder, suicide, accidental death, medical emergency that could have been treated if not in the bush, or addiction (which is often synonymous with the previous causes). I'd have to think about how many children's funerals I've attended, or the number of times I have cried and prayed with friends grieving the loss of a child, or an elder, to some form of violent or preventable death.

The logic of elimination at the heart of the genocidal colonial project continues to prevail.
posted by spitbull at 11:36 AM on August 3, 2014 [15 favorites]


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posted by PROD_TPSL at 11:39 AM on August 3, 2014


Kake isn't even particularly remote by Alaskan standards; though it does require a boat or a small plane flight to get there, which partially explains the delay in response from law enforcement.

I remember when this happened -- it was big news in the region.

The thing is -- the law enforcement situation in villages is more complicated than the article makes it out to be. Law enforcement presence of the type that the article presumes should be routine is often not welcome in remote communities, for reasons which are pretty obvious once you start thinking about them.

Assault and domestic violence, especially against women and girls, is an awful problem throughout the state, and particularly in remote communities. People are working to change that and to raise awareness but progress is slow. There aren't easy solutions, unfortunately.
posted by Nerd of the North at 11:43 AM on August 3, 2014 [4 favorites]


Maybe it would be expensive to provide hundreds of remote communities with professional law enforcement, one half of my brain says.

Then maybe Alaska could scrape the money together with a few percent of the roughly seven hundred million dollars it just mails out in checks each year, the better half of my brain points out.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 11:50 AM on August 3, 2014 [3 favorites]


I have no idea what a state-funded officer is going to do in a small village that the villagers couldn't do themselves.

The problem, as is hinted at throughout the article, is that violence is becoming more common as traditional social bonds are destroyed. More cops are not going to help that.
posted by Avenger at 12:34 PM on August 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


Then maybe Alaska could scrape the money together with a few percent of the roughly seven hundred million dollars it just mails out in checks each year, the better half of my brain points out.

Nope. The money mailed in checks is not state money, it's from the Alaska Permanent Fund, which is a series of investments made with the money oil companies paid for initial drilling rights. The fund is surrounded by legal language very specifically prohibiting the state from taking control of the money, or using it to do anything other than sending out no-strings-attached checks. It's actually the most gloriously socialist thing in 20th-century American history, but it also means that the money can't be used for, say, village police.

Alaska is actually weirdly poised between being a rich state and a poor state. Wherever there's oil money, the state is rich, like in Valdez, a tiny fishing village where a pipeline terminus means great roads and community centers. But everywhere else, the state's very low taxes mean very little public money.

The thing is -- the law enforcement situation in villages is more complicated than the article makes it out to be. Law enforcement presence of the type that the article presumes should be routine is often not welcome in remote communities, for reasons which are pretty obvious once you start thinking about them.


Yeah, exactly. When something like this happens, everyone in the village wants more police. But things like this are rare, and most of the time, people in the villages are very happy to have the police far away, especially when it comes to the constant violations of hunting laws that the interviewees complain about throughout the article. Even domestic violence rarely inspires calls from the villagers for more police, not least because the traditional values of the village don't exactly welcome bringing in white cops to arrest a Native man.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 12:47 PM on August 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


Well one of the villagers WAS a state funded officer until the state decided it couldn't afford him anymore. He was the one who organized keeping the crime scene cordoned off until law enforcement could arrive and the murder investigated. We aren't talking about a police state here, we're talking about having a single police officer who, if he was still employed by the state, could have responded immediately and began a formal investigation instead of waiting for police to arrive and hope the evidence was still untainted.
posted by miss-lapin at 12:48 PM on August 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


I think it cuts either way, miss-lapin. If that guy were still a state-funded cop, he'd be expected to enforce those pesky hunting laws, and put himself in a position of distrust with the community. I'm not sure that putting him on the state payroll would much change what he could do about the murder.

As to the checks, I've heard things that sound similar to complaints about welfare-type programs in the lower 48, that a lot of the money gets used for various chemical life enhancers, which contributes in many ways to the level of domestic and other violence in native communities. Looking back to the discussion of Canada's northern communities, somewhere in there was a reference to the ungodly high murder rate in the far north. Isolation, economic privation, and the breakdown of traditional community structures has led to a great many ills amongst a newly unmoored population.
posted by dhartung at 1:49 PM on August 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


Then maybe Alaska could scrape the money together with a few percent of the roughly seven hundred million dollars it just mails out in checks each year, the better half of my brain points out.
I know that to the outside world, the Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend payments are a strange program that strikes many people as ludicrously wasteful and serving no useful purpose. But based on your comment I'm guessing you have no idea how important the Permanent Fund is to small isolated communities like Kake.

The article mentions a ~80% unemployment rate in Kake -- which is kind of debatable but the point to take away is that a large portion of the people there do not work a 9-5 job for pay; there aren't many of those kinds of jobs there in the first place. Some money comes in through payments from Sealaska, the corporation established under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act and charged with stewardship of the resources set aside under the act for native peoples in the region (though not everybody in small bush communities are shareholders) but by and large small isolated native communities such as Kake are cash-poor and subsistence hunting, fishing, and gathering is still an important part of many people's livelihood.

A yearly infusion of cash from the Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend gives a chance for people who don't have a lot of cash in their economy to buy hunting equipment, engine parts, clothing, fuel, and other items that are more immediately relevant to their day-to-day problems than having a VPSO.

There are certainly people in Alaska who are spending their Permanent Fund Dividends on big-screen televisions or winter vacations down to Los Cabos. But that's not the whole story.
posted by Nerd of the North at 1:55 PM on August 3, 2014 [4 favorites]


That's an either/or logical fallacy,dhartung. He couldn't possibly investigate this murder AND also deal with hunting laws at the same time? Apparently he did until the state deemed he wasn't worthy of a paycheck. And it doesn't seem like the community had an issue with him when he was a police officer, although admittedly we don't have evidence either way on that one. He wasn't voted out of office, his job was eliminate for cost reasons. He seems very passionate about the community and the community seems to respect him. That the people followed his lead would indicate that people trust him even though he's a former cop.

And while putting him on the state payroll might not change much but his circumstances, it would put more resources into his hands and allow him to act quickly.

I'm not saying it would work for every community in Alaska but in THIS community it seems like they have a person who would be useful as a cop.
posted by miss-lapin at 2:01 PM on August 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'd like to know more about the traditional Tlingit dispute-resolution practices that the article mentions. What did they do before there was a police service?
posted by orrnyereg at 3:06 PM on August 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


He couldn't possibly investigate this murder AND also deal with hunting laws at the same time?

I'm pretty sure that's not what dhartung was saying. He was saying that if this guy were on the State payroll, he'd have to enforce other laws--ones which the locals pretty much don't want enforced. (As to what he did when he was on the state payroll, it's not mentioned in the article.)

it would put more resources into his hands and allow him to act quickly.

He did act quickly. Very quickly. And his resources were everyone in town, guarding the crime scene until the cops could arrive.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 3:16 PM on August 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


Maybe it would be expensive to provide hundreds of remote communities with professional law enforcement, one half of my brain says. Then maybe Alaska could scrape the money together with a few percent of the roughly seven hundred million dollars it just mails out in checks each year, the better half of my brain points out.

As has been pointed out, it is so much more complicated than the above comment, and so much more complicated than the article makes it out to be. I mean, the only conclusion one could possibly reach reading that Post story is that Alaska needs more state troopers, the government clearly doesn't give a shit about rural natives, and why the fuck can't Alaska pay for some local law enforcement, the cheap fucks?

But honestly, I know next to nothing about Alaska and even I know there are about 3,000 other factors at play here. I actually think that article is negligent.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:00 PM on August 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


feckless, I endorse your interpretation of what I said. I'm not saying that he "couldn't do both" physically; I'm saying that making him an official cop wouldn't necessarily change very much for the community, at least in practical terms, and it would potentially make some members of the community distrust him.

In my neighborhood there are plenty of people who will spit the word cop, but call them the instant they think they can get their neighbor in trouble. It's not at all an either-or, it's a very murky social problem. The flip side is that I'm in a moderate-sized city with a really professional police force, but in the area we have lots of small village and township police departments that have no end of personnel conflicts, unprofessional behavior, and outright corruption and scandal. It's like that little place in the South that fired the lesbian police chief and then elected a new mayor who rehired her immediately -- rollercoaster local politics like that. One small town was in turmoil for about eight years running.

But that aside, my more important point is that whatever resources somebody thinks should be poured into a badge and a gun might actually be better spent addressing the underlying social ills here. What can we do about people who don't have jobs, in a place that will never be able to "create" them? What can we do to maintain traditional family and tribal structures that have enforced order for generations, but have been maimed and broken by modern economic and social imperatives? Is arming VPSOs really the answer? (One would almost assume nearly every able-bodied male in this sort of environment would have a gun and know how to use it already, but I can imagine exceptions.) To mention a point about myself, I'm in a marginal part of my city and we developed a neighborhood association that has worked with the city council, the police, and social service agencies to have a serious impact on anti-social problems like drug dealing and gang activity. It hasn't been easy. But I know from working out here in the field, so to speak, that just asking for the cops to show up and kick some ass doesn't really solve a problem.
posted by dhartung at 11:49 PM on August 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


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