A new report on policing in Anchorage says the city needs dramatically more officers to meet its public safety goals.
“This bolsters what we’ve been saying,” Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz said.
Berkowitz campaigned on building up the Anchorage Police Department’s staffing levels after declines during the Sullivan Administration.
The new report by the non-partisan policy group the Police Executive Research Forum—or PERF as it’s more commonly known—is an update to a similar study from 2010. It concludes that if Anchorage wants to meet its community policing goals, officers need 40 percent of their work time to be “un-obligated.”
That means patrol officers are building relationships and following up on information, rather than speeding from one call to another.
The report notes that reduced staffing levels the last few years may have shifted the burden of policing less severe infractions like property theft to store managers and private groups.
“There’s a false economy that comes from not having the right-sized police force,” Berkowitz said. “And the false economy comes because businesses have to step into the breach to pay for private security. There are opportunity costs for private citizens. And crime is very expensive. So the cheapest thing we can do is make sure we have a police force that’s capable of doing the job of public safety.”
Getting that capacity means adding 67 patrol positions to the 166 that currently exist. The report recommends the department grow to 446 positions once civilian and detective jobs are added, as well.
Berkowitz says this year’s budget begins paying for rebuilding and sustaining that larger police force.
“Ya know, there’s this thing about math: we’ve got to go through 400 before we can get to 446,” he said. “But the goal isn’t a number, the goal is to have enough officers to make sure enough officers to do the job it should be done.”
A spokesman for the union representing public safety officers says the Administration’s actions have been encouraging, even as the department continues to face challenges with recruitment and retention.