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Rural Alaska

Mountain Village officer honored for work with Alaska Native women and children

BETHEL — A village police officer in Western Alaska was selected to receive the Shirley Demientieff Award for her efforts in improving the lives of Alaska Native women and children.

Gov. Bill Walker is scheduled to present the award Thursday to Mountain Village Officer Anna Bill at the Alaska Federation of Natives Convention in Anchorage, KYUK-AM reported.

Bill had gone back to work only a couple days before Walker called her, telling her she was the recipient. Bill had resigned from the job while on medical leave for an on-the-job injury caused by an assault.

"I think I resigned out of anger and frustration," Bill said. "I was going through a phase where my PTSD had gotten the better of me, and I was so mad at everybody in the world."

Bill was previously the village's only law enforcement officer. She stayed on call around the clock and volunteered her extra hours knowing that the city lacked the funding to pay for all her work. Before Bill had resigned, she responded to 66 attempted suicide calls in less than a year.

Bill sought counseling during her leave, and she also received encouragement from Mountain Village residents telling her to "don't give up" and to "keep going."

"And so as that came along, it made me think about how much I really miss my job," Bill said.

The night before she was due back to work, a person in the community had died by suicide.

"It took a lot out of me just thinking about, you know, what if he'd had somebody to talk to? Or what if I'd signed on a day before? Or, you know, there's always these 'what ifs'," Bill said.

Bill said she hopes the award will motive government officials to better fund public safety in rural Alaska.

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