Eroding rights gave rise to commission
By Bumppo Bremicker and Lindianne Sarno
“No future without forgiveness,” – Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Citizens of Alaska Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission in Homer has many cultures: homesteaders, fishing families, Russian Old Believers, farmers, gardeners, cooks, hunters, gatherers, builders, back to the landrs, drinkers at bars, writers, painters, musicians, international and Alaskan visitors, birdwatchers, smokers, retirees, Celtic clans, church families, retired military, families educating their young, law enforcement, civil service, mental disability sufferers and care-givers, medical patients and providers.
We all contribute to Homer’s strong economy and vibrant community capable of miracles like the Homer Playground Project. What brings us together? The land and sea that sustain us, and Homer’s markets, schools, recreation, arts and self-governance.
Bumppo Bremicker and Lindianne Sarno
During the past year, Alaskans reported certain (not all) local police and state troopers engaged in: perjury, harassment, lack of due process, arrest/incarceration when no crime was committed, intimidation, disrespect, cultural discrimination, and unreasonable fines. Suddenly, police discretion expanded and was applied unfairly, as in “Alaska is now a zero-tolerance state. You blew under the legal blood alcohol limit, but I’m going to arrest you anyway.” Citizens experienced shame and degradation during incarceration. In court, citizens experienced ineffective public defenders, and unethical/illegal prosecutorial behavior.
As historians, we were alarmed that Alaskans’ constitutional and human rights had eroded sharply and suddenly. Historically, an erosion of rights is the precursor to a police state. In a police state, law enforcement culture dominates and preys upon all the other cultures, especially the most vulnerable. Fortunately, Alaska has a constitution and traditions of healthy self-governance, important tools to avert a police state.
In a letter to both newspapers we proposed a truth, justice and reconciliation commission to restore Homer’s community-based policing. Citizens of Alaska met and agreed to form a citizens commission with a mission to promote a fair justice system under the Alaska and United States Constitutions, encourage good relations between police and community, and heal divisions between the justice system and the public through a transparent, respectful process.
Citizens of Alaska met with Homer Police Chief Mark Robl. Chief Robl asked complainants to use the Homer Police Department’s complaint form and “give the existing process a chance.” We reported citizens afraid to file complaints for fear of police harassment and retaliation. Chief Robl assured us that when a complaint lands on his desk the complainant comes under his protection.
This citizens commission: has no power to compel testimony. Can cordially invite. Can receive reports and complaints. Can listen. Can protect citizens who report. Can initiate conversations among citizens, police and government on thorny issues. Can publish forms, articles, letters, and pamphlets. Can shine the light of the constitution on police and court practices. Can make recommendations. Can bring face to face those who hate and fear each other. Can create forgiveness opportunities.
The commission’s work has three stages: truth (receive reports), justice (summarize, make recommendations), reconciliation (apologies, forgiveness, police and citizens find common ground and adopt shared principles).
On June 26, at 6 p.m., at Homer City Hall Council Chambers, Citizens of Alaska will meet to move forward the work of this Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission. Homer Police Chief Mark Robl and Capt. Andy Greenstreet of the Alaska State Troopers in Kenai will be our guests. We will sit in the round and pass a speaking feather in an introductory go-round, two minutes each. Then officers of Citizens of Alaska will present the mission and process of the commission. After a 10 minute refreshment break, we cordially invite our guests to speak for 10 minutes each. Then Bumppo will preside over a decorous, respectful question and answer session. After adjournment we may repair to local drinking establishments.
People from all Homer’s cultures are cordially invited to participate. RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org. Should you have a report or complaint for the truth stage of this commission, you may testify in person, in writing, on our complaint form (available at the meeting and by request), or by e-mail. Should you so request, your complaint can remain anonymous.
Bumppo Bremicker chairs the Homer Parks and Recreation Commission and the KBBI board of directors. Lindianne Sarno chairs the Homer Economic Development Commission.