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Bush Pilot Helps Rural Alaskan Police Explore Isolated Villages

In order to reach what Alaskans call "The Bush" — villages isolated across tundra — you'll need a bush pilot. That's where John Bouker comes in.

Most of Bouker's passengers are civilians he transports to and from Alaska's remote villages. He does his job with the nonchalance of a suburban dad in a minivan dropping his kids off at the mall.

But this nonchalance is deceptive. Bouker is actually one of the most reliable pilots in Alaska's Bristol Bay area. Acting as an unofficial arm of local law enforcement, Bouker helps state troopers reach isolated areas and bring prisoners back from villages.

He likes flying the cops around, but it can sometimes lead to awkward situations, especially when cops sit next to civilians who smuggle booze into villages where alcohol is illegal.

Click on the audio link above to hear NPR's Martin Kaste recount his experience flying with Bouker.

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Martin Kaste is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk. He covers law enforcement and privacy. He has been focused on police and use of force since before the 2014 protests in Ferguson, and that coverage led to the creation of NPR's Criminal Justice Collaborative.