Investigation finds dozens of Alaska police officers were hired despite disqualifying past criminal convictions

Investigation finds dozens of Alaska police officers were hired despite disqualifying past criminal convictions
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Alaskan police departments hired dozens of officers with criminal records, including a village in which the entire force had domestic violence convictions, according to an investigation by ProPublica and the Anchorage Daily News.

At least 14 cities' police departments hired more than 34 convicted criminals, according to the investigation, and an additional eight communities hired tribal police officers convicted of domestic violence or sex crimes, according to the report released last week.

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The city governments did not comply with requirements that they report the hires to the state regulatory board in all but three cases, and numerous officers identified remain on the job, according to the investigation.

“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 possibly could victimize the victims further,” Melanie Bahnke, a board member for the Alaska Federation of Natives, which represents 191 tribes, told the Daily News.

The officers’ records would preclude their hiring by the Anchorage Police Department or a similarly sized city’s department as well as by the Alaska State Troopers or a private security firm in most of the U.S., according to the Daily News.

Bob Griffiths, director of the Alaska Police Standards Council, said enforcement is all but impossible because the agency’s resources are already stretched thin with handling complaints and appeals involving certified officers, and it lacks the means to visit rural areas.

Compounding the problem, the affected parts of rural Alaska have some of the highest rates of domestic violence and sexual assault nationwide, and in cases relying on arrests by people with criminal records, prosecutors often drop or reduce charges rather than put them on the stand, according to the report.