What is Police Brutality?
In some ways, police brutality looks different in every place it occurs. In other ways, it looks the same every time. Amnesty International describes “police brutality” as a human rights violation by a police officer, such as “beatings, racial abuse, unlawful killings, torture, or indiscriminate use of riot control agents at protests.” This general definition seems to apply to every incident of police brutality that we see in the news.
Not all police brutality is equal though. Each state’s police officers receive state-specific training and each police department has its own culture. In addition, each police officer has unique motivations and biases. The perfect storm for police brutality can occur when a state’s training has a militaristic bent, its law enforcement culture values aggressive treatment of suspects and other community members, and a police officer is motivated by racism, anger, and/or fear.
Is Alaska Different?
In Alaska, as in other states, police officers receive training that is specific to the community they serve. Since much of Alaska is a frontier, their police officer training may include components that are unique to wide expanses, rural towns, and very cold temperatures, among other things. And, as in other states, the personal bias of police officers sometimes play a role in the execution of their duties in communities across Alaska, from Juneau to Birch Creek.
Per the United States Census Bureau, Alaska’s population is 731,545, with 65.3 percent of the population being white. That leaves almost 35 percent of the population to be minorities. Alaska Natives make up approximately 15 percent of the state’s population. According to the Washington Post, Alaska is one of three states that have the greatest number of police shootings in the United States. Between 2015 and 2020, Alaska police officers killed 39 people. At least nine of those people were Native, nearly 25 percent of all police killings.
Victims Deserve Justice
Every victim of police brutality deserves justice. The crime committed on them was perpetrated by a person sworn to protect and serve the community. This type of police-instigated crime can cause distrust and fear of law enforcement to bloom in the communities where the crimes occur. So on top of the (sometimes fatal) physical and emotional personal injuries of the actual victims, the local community suffers injury as well. This potentially means that generations of people in a community could live with fear and distrust of police officers.
Justice can be difficult to come by. If you have been a victim of police brutality in Alaska, you deserve justice (and possibly compensation). You may have a legal case for accusing the police officer who hurt you, and you may have a civil case. Proving your case requires legal expertise, knowledge of the judicial system, knowledge of past cases of police brutality, and an ability to communicate in your defense.