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Alaska Police Department Run by Former Convicts

by Kevin Bliss

Stebbins, Alaska, maintains a seven-man police force in 2019 led by Police Chief Sebastian Mike. Every member of the force has been convicted of a crime. Convictions range from trespassing to domestic assault, with the chief a registered sex offender for a conviction of sexual abuse on a minor. City officials claim they have no choice but to hire ex-offenders as there are no other applicants for the low-paying, part-time jobs.

Mike has 19 convictions spanning a 26-year period, the latest in 2017. There’s a total of 84 convictions among everyone on the force. Robert Kirk, Cylas Okitkun, and Denzel Nashoanak each have fewer than five convictions, but Vincent Matthias, John Aluska, and Delbert Acoman have multiple charges covering 10, 20, and 27 years respectively. The force has spent a combined seven years incarcerated.

Stebbins is not the only community employing ex-offenders as police officers. The Anchorage Daily News and ProPublica found that 14 cities in Alaska have hired ex-offenders in violation of Department of Public Safety regulations. These hires were not reported to the state regulatory board as required except in three cases. Tribal governments of eight communities have also hired ex-offenders as tribal police officers. In all, 42 police on Alaskan police forces are employed where in any other state their criminal record would prevent them from being employed as private security, let alone a police officer.

“It’s outrageous that we have a situation where we have a, such a lack of public safety that communities are resorting to hiring people who have the propensity for violence and placing them in a position where they have control over people and could victimize the victims further,” said Melanie Bahnke, board member of the Alaskan Federation of Natives.

Domestic violence is a problem that occurs in 10 percent of the families living in the United States. Yet, according to the National Center for Women and Policing, that number quadruples to 40 percent when dealing with the families of police officers.

Battered women advocates state that incidents of domestic violence are greatly underreported.

Women fear the shame and stigmatization they feel accompanies reporting. Moreover, when the perpetrator of a domestic violence incident is a police officer, the problem is compounded. Police abuse specialist and author Diane Wetendorf said those abused in relationships with police officers have additional fears of reporting the abuse. They also fear their abusers’ connections to law enforcement and the judicial system will prevent proper justice and allow no protection for the abused.

Every member of the Stebbins police force has received a domestic violence charge sometime within the last five years. 

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Sources: thefreethoughtproject.com, propublica.org

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