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Anchorage police considering new criminal cases involving National Guard members

Armed with new information provided by the Alaska National Guard, the Anchorage Police Department is considering opening new cases.

"There is potential that new sexual assault investigations could be opened as a result. We are evaluating the new information now," Anchorage Police Chief Mark Mew said in an email to Alaska Dispatch News.

The new investigations would be in addition to approximately 20 previous sexual assault cases involving guard members that police have checked into since 2009, Mew said. The connection of a guard member or members to each case was either as a victim or as the accused.

Of the 20 cases, three have been referred to state prosecutors, Mew said.

"We attempted to investigate each case. In some cases we determined something happened, but it wasn't a sexual assault. In other cases we simply couldn't make the case," Mew said.

He also said he believed that in some of the cases, the guard, which does not have law enforcement authority but does have the ability to take administration action, disciplined one or more suspects.

As a result of misconduct, several guard members, including a handful from the recruiting and retention battalion, have undergone processes that can force them into retirement, separate them from their military service or lower their rank.

Allegations that the guard had tried to cover up sexual assaults and that it had improperly dealt with victims and assailants surfaced last year when victims and their advocates went outside the chain of command for help. The allegations eventually became core issues that drove Gov. Sean Parnell to bring in federal investigators.

Investigators found a culture of deep mistrust, despite finding the guard has good systems in place, now, to manage the needs of sexual assault victims. They also uncovered favoritism, fraud, harassment, and had questions about other possible misconduct.

The track record for prosecution is one of the things soldiers asked Parnell about during a town hall meeting Sunday, at which he pledged to hold wrongdoers accountable.

Of 10 specific cases Parnell was aware of, seven had been referred to APD, three to Fairbanks police, and "a few" were referred to the Department of Law for prosecution. One of those cases, a fraud case, ended with conviction and jail time, he said. The other cases, though referred to law enforcement, were reviewed but did not result in prosecution, he said.

The feds have also turned cases away, he said.

"When somebody came to me with an allegation of criminal misconduct, I sent my chief of staff to the FBI office with those facts," he told the room full of soldiers Sunday. "Four to six weeks later the FBI came back and said, 'There is no basis.' "

"My concern is, it took us too long to get to the root of the problem, not that there was inaction," he said.