JUNEAU, Alaska — Juneau officials concerned with the city’s rising crime rate discussed ways to solve a shortage of police officers, including speeding up the training process and making wages competitive.

The police department is 11 officers short of full capacity, according to Deputy Chief David Campbell, and two current officers are expected to retire in the spring.

“The numbers are starting to get kind of scary,” Campbell said.

The mayor’s Task Force on Public Safety met with police officials Tuesday and discussed the obstacles the department faces in recruiting, the Juneau Empire reported .

The department is in the process of hiring officers, but training takes a long time, Campbell said. There are only two training sessions available per year at the police academy in Sitka, with the next one coming up in February, he said.

Task force members decided the department needs to find a way to speed up that training process.

The members also said they plan to recommend to the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly more bonuses for police staff. The task force said other priorities include moving as much work as possible to public safety employees who aren’t officers and assuring wages are competitive with other police departments.

Mayor Ken Koelsch requested in the fall that the task force be created to look into the city’s rising crime rate.

The task force discussed ways to combat the crime rate and also help strained officers, with one idea being to install video cameras to monitor high-traffic areas downtown.

Campbell, however, said he was concerned about how the community would perceive the cameras and the cost to monitor them.

“There’s part of me that likes the idea,” Campbell said, “but there’s also part of me that likes, ‘I’m down there for Gallery Walk. Do I really want to be on camera?’ I could see how there are some people who are going to be really opposed to the idea.”

The task force will meet again Jan. 2, at which point it will prioritize its recommendations before formally presenting them to the Assembly.


Information from: Juneau (Alaska) Empire, http://www.juneauempire.com

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