Study: Anchorage Police Could Shift Routine

Len Anderson, KSKA – Anchorage

Increase Community Policing and cut down on the time officer’s spend handling “calls for service.” Those were just two of the recommendations release Thursday in a staffing and deployment study of the Anchorage Police Department.

At the end of the City Hall press conference, Anchorage Police Chief Mark Mew offered a final assessment of his reaction to the just released deployment study.

Dr. Craig Fraiser, of the Police Executive Research Forum, a private non-profit research firm based in Washington, D.C., and the forum have conducted well over 100 studies on police departments and procedures.   Fraiser says the research company does not use officer to population ratios.

Overall, Fraiser rates the Anchorage Police Department performance as “good,” and describes the proposed changes as incremental, both in scope and timing–the latter dependent to a considerable degree on the status of the municipal budget.

“Neighborhood Issues” based police work translates is called “community policing,” a proactive approach integrating officers into their beat areas.   It involves seeking out community residents, businesses and meetings.  Much of it comes from something called “un-obligated time.”  Before the study, Chief Mew says the department was trying to increase un-obligated time to 40 percent of a patrol officer’s weekly shift.   It’s currently in the 29 percent range.  Fraiser did not recommend 40 percent.

Chief Mew and Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan appeared to agree with Fraser’s assessment.  However, in an afternoon press conference, Sergeant Derek Hsieh, president of the Anchorage Police Department Employees Association, disagreed.

Hsieh cited International Association of Chiefs of Police studies that say a patrol officer’s un-obligated time should be 60 percent of their duty time for effective community policing.

The just released report seeks to show how the current police department staff levels could be used for maximum efficiency.  It also offers a guide as to how, when the city’s budget grows fatter and the department’s funding increase, staff increases could have the best effect.  However, should the upcoming year’s fiscal gap require cutbacks, the study also has recommendations for staff reductions.

The Anchorage Police Department Staffing and Deployment Study  is available at the police department section of the Anchorage Municipal website.

The study will also be the focus of the Anchorage Assembly’s Public Safety Committee, which meets at noon, next Wednesday, in the first floor conference room at city hall.   The public is invited.

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