First Alaska Native woman to join state troopers will lead Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons Initiative

File photo of an Alaska State Troopers hat.
File photo of an Alaska State Troopers hat.(KTUU)
Published: Apr. 18, 2022 at 2:45 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Anne Sears was the first Alaska Native woman to work for the Alaska State Troopers and spent over two decades in Alaskan law enforcement. On Monday, the Alaska Department of Public Safety announced that Sears will lead the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons Initiative from the department offices in Anchorage.

“Over my career as an Alaska State Trooper I enjoyed my time in rural Alaska and the impact that quality law enforcement can have on Alaska’s small vibrant rural communities,” Sears said in a press release. “For too long Alaska Natives have faced (disproportionately) high rates of violence, and I look forward to contributing to reversing those trends.”

Sears is originally from Nome and had worked all across Alaska, but will work out of Anchorage for the new position. The release said that Sears began her work as an investigator on April 4 and that the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons Initiative is funded by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Project Safe Neighborhoods.

Sears first began working for the troopers in 2001 and was still the only Alaska Native woman working as a trooper when she retired in October 2021. Sears worked both in rural and urban Alaska as a patrol trooper, in major crimes and narcotics interdiction units. According to spokesperson Austin McDaniel, Sears is the first and only investigator working with Alaska State Troopers on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons. McDaniel wrote that Sears will work with the agency’s cold case investigator and over a dozen major crimes investigators.

According to the Alaska Native Women’s Resource Center, Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons cases continue to impact Alaskans more than in other areas.

“Alaska continues to have one of the highest rates which is devastating for our communities and our families,” the center’s website says.

In the summer of 2020, the U.S. Department of Justice created a presidential task force for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons. Later in November of 2020, Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons projects were started in Alaska, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana and Oregon. The U.S. Department of Justice declared May 5 of 2021 as Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons awareness day.

“For generations, Alaska Natives have experienced disproportionately high rates of domestic violence, sexual assault and other violent crimes,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Bryan Wilson in the release. “Tragically, this is not a problem of the past – it’s a problem that continues today. By working together to create strong partnerships, I am confident we can create a safer and brighter future.”

After her retirement, Sears was honored as Sen. Dan Sullivan’s Alaskan of the Week on Sept. 30, 2021. The Department of Public Safety release said that Sears’ position is the latest development is Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s People First Initiative which was announced last December.

“Anne Sears was one of our top Troopers and I am glad that she has agreed to return from retirement to this new position and continue to serve Alaskans,” said Alaska Department of Public Safety Commissioner James Cockrell in the press release. “This new MMIP Investigator combined with the six new major crimes investigators based in Western Alaska will ensure that all Alaskans receive the world class law enforcement service that the Alaska State Troopers provide regardless of their zip code, race, gender, or ethnicity.”

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