Injustice Invisible to Most
Police brutality unfairly impacts minority groups in America. One minority group often overlooked are Alaskan Natives. In Alaska, Alaskan Natives account for 15 percent of the population. Since 2015, 39 people in Alaska have been killed by police. 9 of these people were Alaskan Natives, meaning that one quarter of citizens killed by police in Alaska are Alaskan Native. This creates a racial disparity, but statisticians have noticed a difficulty in gauging the mistreatment Alaskan Natives go through. Because there are so few Alaskan Natives in Alaska and small samples elsewhere, this creates a blind spot in data collection. A couple incidents of police brutality against Alaskan Natives can also skew a sample. However, it is clear that this group is treated differently compared to other races and have found less safety at the hands of police as they fight for a voice on this topic.
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Many Alaskan Natives have spoken about the nationwide ignorance regarding their experiences with police and often feel invisible in society. While many in the nation have shown their support for Black Lives Matter, some Alaskan Natives point out that the same are silent when it comes to the injustices they face. However, recent events of police brutality have sparked a larger conversation. On Christmas Eve in 2017, Cody Eyre was killed by police in Alaska. Eyre's suffered multiple gunshot wounds, one to the back of the head. Following Eyre's murder, the family knows very little about what occurred the day he died.
One problem the family and the family's attorney noted was that the internal investigation of the police was carried out by law enforcement, which is cause for conflict of interest. A recording of the 911 call his mother placed and body cam footage of the incident are both being withheld.The Eyre's family feels that Cody's identity as an Alaskan Native was a factor in his death. This instance, which is not the only of its kind, has encouraged others to speak out against the injustice they have faced as Alaskan Natives as well as advocate for police reform and fair treatment of minorities in the criminal justice system, as pictured above.
Police misconduct is destructive in diverse ways for Alaskan Natives and is not a new revelation. However, this issue deserves more awareness. Native Americans and Alaskan Natives are killed by police at a higher rate than any other race. Alaskan Natives report police being less helpful when they are seeking victim advocacy services and are also more likely to be a victim of a crime in Alaska. Some rural communities in Alaska receive little protection from law enforcement compared to other areas, and non-natives are more likely to benefit from police presence. Much of how the police operate in Alaska is due to the state's laws and jurisdiction, but advocacy groups are also speaking against the discrimination that is found in these governmental practices. Advocates and lawmakers have deemed this law enforcement crisis in Alaska as a one that is a public emergency and should garner the attention of the US as a whole. More police training and equal efforts of public safety for both Native and non-native groups have been a part of the means to reduce inequality in the Alaskan police force.