DPS names new Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons Initiative leader

DPS names new Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons Initiative leader
Published: Sep. 27, 2022 at 1:15 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Department of Public Safety announced that retired Alaska State Trooper Lt. Lonny Piscoya will return to service as the new leader of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons Initiative.

The department first announced the creation of the MMIP initiative in April. Former MMIP leader Anne Sears — the first Alaska Native woman to work for the troopers — began as the initiative’s leader on April 4 and worked until she re-retired on Sept. 2, according to trooper spokesperson Austin McDaniel.

“I am excited to return to the department to lead this worthy initiative for DPS,” Piscoya said. “I have seen the devastation that high rates of violent crimes have on Alaska’s villages and small communities. I am committed to doing my part to help reverse those trends with my fellow Alaska State Troopers.”

Piscoya is a lifelong Alaskan who was born in Nome and worked for 25 years in law enforcement, according to a press release. Piscoya joined the troopers in 1993 and worked in Fairbanks, Galena, Ketchikan, Southeast Alaska and the Interior.

“I personally worked with Lonny over his career with the department and know from first-hand experience that he will bring the same tenacity and persistence that he was known for as a Trooper to this critical role,” Commissioner James Cockrell said. “With the framework that retired MMIP Investigator Anne Sears helped put in place, I know we will continue to make meaningful progress on this critical responsibility.”

During his time with troopers, Piscoya worked as a post supervisor, detachment deputy commander, and tactical dive team member. He began work as the MMIP Initiative leader on Sept. 19.

“Investigator Piscoya will lead the department’s outreach efforts for the MMIP initiative and will assist the Alaska Bureau of Investigation with both active and cold case murder and missing person cases involving Alaska Natives,” the release said. “Improving MMIP investigations is one of the key branches of Governor Dunleavy’s People First initiative. Investigator Piscoya will also serve as the Commissioner of Public Safety’s designee on the Governor’s Council on Missing or Murdered Indigenous Persons.”

The MMIP initiative is funded by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Project Safe Neighborhoods. A presidential task force was created in 2020 by the Department of Justice for MMIP, and projects began later that year in Alaska, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana and Oregon. Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons Day was recognized on May 5, 2021.