U.S. Department of the Interior hosts Public Safety Listening Session in Bethel

by AVCP, Inc.

In response to an invitation sent by the Association of Village Council Presidents (AVCP), representatives from the U.S. Department of the Interior, the Alaska Congressional Delegation, and the White House traveled to Bethel, Alaska, to listen to regional tribal representatives on the most pressing issue facing tribes in Alaska – public safety.

47 tribal councils selected representatives to speak at this listening session. These representatives shared their communities’ experiences living with a notorious lack of public safety.

“I’m honored to be here at the request of AVCP,” said Assistant Secretary of the Office of Indian Affairs Tara Sweeney. “We are here to listen. We are here to learn. The purpose of this session is to learn from you, and to be part of the solutions.”

Tribal representative stood up one by one to share stories that revealed common themes as well as common requests for tools to combat their common struggles. The funding and infrastructure for public safety in the AVCP region is not sufficient to meet the basic safety needs of people in every community.

Representatives from the federal government heard requests for increased funding for facilities, housing for public safety professionals, and training for public safety personnel. As one representative shared, “We can’t give up and we won’t give up, but we can’t function without the jail cells or a public safety building.”

Repeatedly, tribal representatives asked for funding streams to tribes that are permanent, direct, and do not place communities in competition with one another.

Julie Kitka, President of the Alaska Federation of Natives, emphasized the benefits of compacting to provide services on a government-to-government basis. “Community safety has three areas: public safety, law enforcement, and national security. All three have to work together. We need solutions to bring the resources we need. We can’t take it from existing programs that are vital to our people; we need additional resources.”

AVCP has many resources to help shape solutions addressing public safety issues in rural Alaska. Some of these resources include a Statewide Village Public Safety Officer Strategic Plan, a Public Safety Facilities Assessment, and an outcomes report based on the 2018 Public Safety Summit held in Bethel.

At the listening session, AVCP requested compacted funding through multiple source to build and maintain a public service delivery model through sub-regional tribal and public safety wellness centers.

Vivian Korthuis, CEO of AVCP, looks forward to increased collaboration in order to move toward solutions. “We need a comprehensive public safety plan in rural Alaska that will be well thought out and sustainable and address the long-term success of every rural community in Alaska.” Korthuis called for a model with local control that address the needs of the Tribes.”

“Thank you to Assistant Secretary Sweeny, Alaska Congressional Delegation, and the White House, for prioritizing public safety and for coming to Bethel to hear the stories from our tribal leaders regarding public safety. We heard what it’s like to try to keep a community safe with little to no resources, infrastructure, personnel, or training.”

This was news release was issued on August 22nd, 2019.