New District Attorney plans more outreach

Posted: Thursday, February 03, 2011

In 1979 Dave Brower, the new Juneau District Attorney, came to Alaska for some hiking after graduating from college.

Klas Stolpe / Juneau Empire
Klas Stolpe / Juneau Empire

“I went from Nome to Wales, flew back to Nome and walked to Shaktoolik and then to Unalakleet,” Brower said. “I just never went back to Oregon.”

Born and raised in Stratford, Conn., Brower graduated high school in 1965, joined the U.S. Air Force in 1966 and was stationed in the Philippines, seeing temporary duty in Thailand and Vietnam. He was discharged in 1969 and spent seven years getting his college degree in natural history with a minor in social science. He attended Oregon College of Education (now Western Oregon University.)

“I like to hunt and fish,” Brower said. “And Alaska had that attraction.”

Brower worked at the Nome pharmacy until a job opened up in the state correctional center there. From Nov. 1979 to May 1988 he was correctional and transportation officer, after which he quit to go to law school.

His first trial was a shoplifting case in Nome, as a second-year law school intern. A woman who worked in a store was giving things away to friends who came through her line. He learned to listen to the officer’s insights in court and take advice.

Another memory was of using the same jury for three domestic violence trials in a row, in which Brower learned that the jury must be aware all of evidence and testimony.

“It was an interesting process,” Brower said. “I always learn something. I still draw on those experiences in Nome; I did see the effects of the huge percentage of crime related to alcohol. I don’t think alcohol absolutely causes anything but it certainly exacerbates it.”

Bottles of booze were bootlegged for more than $100 in the villages.

“One of the biggest problems is alcohol is not only an illegal substance in the villages, but it has a very strong lobby,” Brower said. “I recall when Sen. Murkowski introduced a bill to raise the price of alcohol very minimally, there was a huge backlash.”

“It seems that it is such a controlling issue or traveling issue with crime in so many cases that it is the biggest problem in Alaska and the criminal justice system,” he said.

To Brower, there is no legal limit of impairment when one is consuming alcohol.

“If you are impaired by alcohol or another illegal substance or inhalant then you can be guilty of driving under the influence,” Brower said. “The legal limit is a misnomer in my opinion, as far as there is no legal limit per se if you are impaired.”

Brower addressed domestic violence and sexual assault, drug use and how to pare the numbers down.

“You hear people say education is important, and it is, I have three daughters from 18-30 and each of their (educations) has been different,” Brower said. “Kids in school need to know at some point what is good and what is bad. Kids learn a lot of this from their parents, and a lot of kids are not learning that.”

Brower has noticed from his work in the criminal justice system a lot of the people who are in that system right now were children in need of aid.

Brower noted they didn’t have a good support system when they were young and really needed it.

“Parents need to pay attention to their kids,” Brower said. “Not just when they reach a certain age and say be home by 10 or midnight. You don’t have to know where they are all the time but parents need to intervene, otherwise that child is not going to have a good foundation.”

Brower credits the Juneau Police Department’s outreach programs to the community and the good repartee the DA’s office has with the JPD as a positive working relationship.

Brower said the biggest challenge is the volume of busy work to get something done. Between reading police reports, going to court, working overtime and on weekends if a trial is looming, the DA’s office prides it self on professionalism.

“We want to get the job done and get it done right,” Brower said. “The goal is to have the right result and the people that work in this office have that goal in mind and are really dedicated.”

Getting everything done is a challenge due to resources; some cases may fall by the wayside, not because they aren’t important but “we look at it like this case will be hard to prove beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Brower noted the recent hires of a new judge, the public defenders’ agency, the office of public advocacy, and the number of private attorneys in Juneau, but added, “Another position is always a good idea.”

Brower will work with attorneys Angie Kemp and Amy Williams, a paralegal and three law office assistants.

“I want the people of Juneau to know the District Attorney’s Office, along with the police department, is working hard to keep Juneau safe,” Brower said. “Crime can be cut down 80 percent and we will still have job security in our line of work, it is unfortunate but that is just the way it is.”

Brower himself has been a victim of a car rifling in Juneau.

“People are willing to try and get something for nothing,” Brower said. “Our job is getting that not to happen. People have a right to be safe, that is why we are here and the police are here.”

The Juneau DA’s office handles cases from Yakutat to Petersburg, and Brower hopes for more travel and outreach among the communities.

“We do go out, probably not as often as we should because our schedule is busy,” Brower said. “I look forward to going out again and talking to police departments and letting them know this is a team effort. Police investigate crimes and refer them to us, and based on their investigations is how good our case will be. The quality of police investigations can always be improved but it has been good in general.”

“One of the things I learned in Nome was to keep in mind that the police are out there dealing with people who are generally intoxicated and almost always belligerent,” Brower said. “Their job is really the hardest job, there is so much more contact they have with people to diffuse situations.”

Brower has been married for 20 years and has three adult daughters and two grandchildren. He joked his initial attraction to Juneau was the fact that his wife had applied for a job here.

“She is the type that if she applies she gets it.”

He has recently begun playing the trumpet with the Juneau Student Symphony.

“It is a fun relaxing hobby,” Brower said. “Doug (Gardner) was more advanced in the bagpipe than I am with the trumpet.”

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



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