Gov. Bill Walker and Alaska Attorney General Craig Richards have released more details of their plan to establish a unit in the Department of Law to independently investigate public corruption, police shootings, deaths in state prisons and the use of unlawful force by officers.
Walker and Richards spoke about the new Public Integrity Unit during a press conference Friday.
“We think this is important because we want the public to feel … that there is an independent, well-staffed organization within the Department of Law that really has the resources they need to independently look at these issues,” Richards said.
Richards alluded to the protests and riots that took place in Ferguson, Missouri after a police officer shot an unarmed black man, and said that in a “post-Ferguson” world, the eyes of the public are on the police any time there’s an officer-involved shooting.
He also said the recent deaths of several Alaskans in state prisons — something that sparked an investigation by the governor’s office and the removal of the Commissioner of Corrections — played a contributing role.
The Public Integrity Unit will be located within the department’s office of special prosecutions and will include two attorneys, a forensic auditor, an investigator and a staff member.
“I would like it to be bigger; that’s not the budget reality we live in,” Richards said.
He added that the creation of the unit will be budget-neutral: It involves the redistribution of existing positions within the Department of Law.
The addition of an investigator to the team means the unit will not have to rely on the Alaska State Troopers for investigative manpower, as has been the case with other Department of Law cases.