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Press Release

Attorney General Proposes Establishing a Public Integrity Unit

January 22, 2016

(Juneau, AK) – Attorney General Craig W. Richards announced today that the Department of Law proposes to establish a Public Integrity Unit within the Office of Special Prosecutions, as mentioned in Governor Bill Walker’s State of the State address. The unit would work to improve public trust in government and eliminate fraud, waste, and corruption.

“Ensuring the public’s trust of those in public service is one of the cornerstones of this administration,” said Attorney General Richards. “The public needs to have confidence in its government, and to that end, this office would seek to bring a new level of accountability through rigorous review and oversight.”

The unit would focus on three specific areas—use of force by law enforcement, corruption and fraud perpetrated upon the State, and prisoner deaths in correctional facilities. By consolidating these matters into one unit within the Office of Special Prosecutions, the matters can be given the attention they deserve by experts in the area while relieving some of the burden from other attorneys and staff.

Officer involved shootings and other claims of unlawful force by an officer receive intense scrutiny from the general public and can erode the community’s trust in law enforcement. It is important that government conducts a thorough investigation into the officer’s conduct in these cases to determine whether the officer followed the law. Law enforcement officers risk their lives on a daily basis to keep our communities safe, and this unit will help to ensure the integrity of our hardworking men and women in uniform is protected by public confidence that there will be a fair and thorough review of an officer’s use of force.

The unit will also investigate prisoner deaths occurring in Alaska’s correctional facilities. The trust in the State’s correctional system has been shaken over the past year due to some high profile inmate deaths, and the extra layer of review provided by the unit would serve to reassure the public that these situations are handled properly.

The authority of our system only functions with the public’s confidence. In these tight budget times, it is even more important to make sure that no abuse or waste will be tolerated—this will be one of the priorities of the unit. For example, the unit will investigate whether any fraud has occurred through the public contracting process.

The investigation and prosecution of crimes involving government misconduct can be long and painstaking. To be successful in these types of investigations, the Public Integrity Unit needs the ability to independently investigate criminal activity and analyze electronic data to reconstruct, detect, and otherwise discover criminal activity. The unit is envisioned to include two attorneys, one forensic auditor, one criminal investigator, and a law office assistant. The goal is to pull from existing resources and reallocate positions as much as possible.

Although the unit will have its own criminal investigator, the unit will continue to partner with federal and state law enforcement agencies to identify instances of public malfeasances, uncover evidence, and initiate prosecutions. The Public Integrity Unit hopes to improve public trust in government by strongly punishing transgressions and ensuring a thorough review process when allegations of misconduct arise.

For more information, please contact Criminal Division Director John Skidmore at (907) 269-6379.

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