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Juneau Police Department invites you to 'be the chief'

First Annual Opinion Survey online for public comment

Posted: July 7, 2011 - 9:02pm
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Reserve Officer George Gozelski of the Juneau Police Department gives directions to a visitor on Franklin Street Thursday. Officer Gozelski, a twenty-year veteran of JPD who retired from the force in 2006, has one of a few department positions paid for by the visitor head tax and provides foot patrol in the core downtown area during tourist season.    Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Reserve Officer George Gozelski of the Juneau Police Department gives directions to a visitor on Franklin Street Thursday. Officer Gozelski, a twenty-year veteran of JPD who retired from the force in 2006, has one of a few department positions paid for by the visitor head tax and provides foot patrol in the core downtown area during tourist season.

If you have always wanted to tell a Juneau Police Department officer just what you thought of him or her and how they can better serve you — now is the time.

The JPD has posted its first opinion survey online at www.juneaupolice.com. The anonymous survey will better provide the JPD with valuable insight into how you perceive them and how the service they provide you can be improved.

“Getting public opinion lets us better serve the public,” JPD Chief Greg Browning said. “That is why we are here.”

JPD will collect public feedback through this survey format each year during the month of July. The survey is a valuable tool for the JPD in improving its policing skills and is the first step in the development of a strategic plan.

The JPD goes through a strategic planning process every three years. The current plan runs through 2011.

“Essentially we get a group of employees together and we hash out what goals and objectives we would like to achieve in the next three years and put that into a game plan for the department to follow,” Browning said. “I thought it was a good idea before we started that process to try and get some input from the community about what they felt were priorities, if they were the chief where would they put our resources.”

The department had looked at hiring an independent company to conduct a scientific study but it was cost prohibitive, especially with the JPD’s limited resources due to budget cuts.

“We will look at the survey in a guarded fashion because it is not a true scientific study,” Browning said. “But on the other hand, we feel it is going to be very useful. I think we will glean some interesting comments from the community.”

Browning said he is especially curious to see how the public takes the mock 100 percent of resources one portion of the survey allows and divides it into the various issues the JPD is tasked with.

Browning got the idea during the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) conference this June in San Diego attended by a law enforcement agency from England. During the Law Enforcement Information Management (LEIM) portion the agency from New Wales shared their Web site launch entitled BalanceYourBobbies.com. It is an initiative to point out that police officers are a finite resource, and gives the public the opportunity to balance the final amount of community policing. The tells the department what issues are important to the public in their community.

As part of the JPD strategic plan, the results of the survey will be posted.

Browning stated a random sampling would have been more accurate.

“The criticism of this type of survey typically is that the only people who take the time to go to the survey are the people who may have an issue with the police department negatively,” said Browning, who is chair of the LEIM board. “Or maybe even the ones who are more positive. But typically the ones in the middle might not be motivated to take it.”

A random sample would provide a mathematical selection process from the community. Browning stated costs could approach $12,000 for that option.

“There are probably a lot of people out there who haven’t had any contact with the police department but their opinion is just as valuable,” Browning said. “I would like to know what they think we should be spending our resources on. The more people we have respond the more accurate it will be.”

Browning stated he is always looking in the area of technology as a force multiplier in times of austere budgets.

“In my mind one of the things that could be improved to make the department more effective is employing better surveillance systems,” Browning said.

Browning said the kind of fixed and mobile license plate reader systems used in the Lower 48 and at border crossings near Canada and Mexico are one example.

The topic is controversial, with the criticism being “Big Brother” is watching. Readers placed at, for example, Alaska Marine Highway System terminals could be an aide to Homeland Security, a mechanism for finding stolen cars or a deterrent for vandalism. A location like downtown Juneau, with its large volume of nuisance crimes reported, would also benefit, police say. Even the areas hit by arson in the past months could be affected positively with a database to refer back to.

“I think employing those types of systems would be a big plus,” Browning said. “In my mind, license plates are a government document, that there is really not an expectation of privacy. It is on the back of your car and is issued by the state government.”

“Police departments have always been noting license plates, but the reader does it electronically and the issue is how long is that electronic record kept,” Browning said.

One of the issues with using an electronic reader in Alaska was the lack of cleanliness of the license plates. A December test in Anchorage could only ready about 10 percent of the plates.

“To me, if you have a good privacy policy in place it can be done,” Browning said. “And if you are not a criminal there is no issue.”

The JPD has released its annual crime statistics report, which revealed increases in areas such as arson.

Statistics reviewed per year or several year basis show the crime rate in Juneau has remained fairly steady in most categories and has declined in some areas.

“That is the nature of crime in general,” Browning said. “There is always a spike typically, because one person, be it an arson(ist) or burglar, becomes active. That will create a spike until that person is captured.”

Any questions about the JPD website and its postings should be directed to the JPD. They can be reached at 586-0600 and a list of email addresses can be found at www.juneau.org/police/staff-new.php.

• Contact reporter Klas Stolpe at 523-2263 or at klas.stolpe@juneauempire.com.

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