Moved by a recent visit to remote villages in Alaska, Attorney General William Barr declared a law enforcement emergency to make millions of dollars available to the state to hire and train more police officers. Amid controversies in the capital over the Russian election probe, Barr has traveled, and has taken a keen interest in the northernmost state, reports the Washington Post. The emergency declaration Friday makes $6 million available to Alaska for hiring, training and equipping police officers for villages, as well as mobile detention facilities. The Justice Department announced it would award another $4.5 million through its Office of Community Oriented Policing Services to fund 20 officer positions.
Law enforcement emergency declarations allow the Justice Department to make funds available to states to address “uncommon” situations that threaten to “become of serious or epidemic proportions.” In recent years, they have used the maneuver to move funds to address gang violence in Selma, Al.; to help North Carolina after a hurricane; and to pay for local law enforcement expenses after mass shootings in Las Vegas, Parkland, Fl., San Bernardino, Ca., and Santa Fe, Tx. Barr visited Alaska in late May, stopping at one of the state’s remote villages. The trip seemed to have a profound impact. The Justice Department noted that Alaska had the nation’s highest per capita crime rate and major geographic challenges. Katie Sullivan, who leads the Office of Justice Programs, said some villages had no law enforcement and no roads. She said more than 50 percent of women in Alaska are subject to domestic violence or sexual assault, and many have limited means to address it quickly. “Because of the geography, your state trooper may be up to two days away from being able to get in,” she said.