A recent media report said that one in three rural Alaska villages lacked any kind of law enforcement. Earlier this year, U.S. Attorney General William Barr visited the Y-K Delta to see the public safety crisis firsthand.
It’s still too early to know if petroleum even exists in the refuge in commercially-viable quantities. But if it’s found, Kaktovik’s residents are simultaneously positioned to be among the biggest beneficiaries, and to experience some of the biggest disruptions.
Quinhagak officers are on call 24/7, yet they’re only paid for 40 hours a week at $15 an hour. When asked how rural Alaska can increase law enforcement, each officer had the same answer: Pay us more.
Until recently, Gwich’in tribes were on the winning side of the battle over drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Then, in late 2017, Congress opened the coastal plain to oil development.