Downtown gets designated officer

Posted: Sunday, May 30, 2010

If Brian Ervin were running for office, he just might win by a landslide. The 37-year-old police officer has constituent relations down pat.

Klas Stolpe / Juneau Empire
Klas Stolpe / Juneau Empire

Poking his head into local businesses and bidding store owners a good day, he also shakes hands with passersby and pats small children on the head while on a patrol.

Ervin has been with the Juneau Police Department for two years, most recently on the night shift. He's now assigned to the downtown area, which business owners and city officials have said needed its own officer.

Ervin said he's been getting to know store owners, and also is looking forward to learning their routines in order to better safeguard the area. As a former retail sales manager and business owner himself, Ervin is able to empathize with downtown shop owners.

"My being in the area, letting store owners know who to contact, ... is working out really well," he said. "I think all that makes it easy for me to relate to the business owners."

"I think it makes for a smoother relationship," he said, opening a door for a shopping-bag-laden citizen.

"We just have to work together as a community, business owner, and law enforcement. I want to know from the business people if there is an issue."

A two-year member of the Juneau Police Department, Ervin also has nine years of military service, worked as a New Mexico border patrol agent and is a graduate of the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center. Even still, he likens his position to that of Barney Fife.

"I guess I am kind of a Barney Fife," he laughed. "I like that whole small town Mayberry feel. And the downtown area is a lot like a small town."

Ervin walked along Franklin Street near the tram, past the Archie Van Winkle Memorial, heading toward the Alaska Steam Ship Dock. Throngs of cruise ship passengers stopped him for directions, and retired law enforcement officers from afar wanted to trade patches. Others just wanted to know where to get a cold drink.

Next Ervin moved up Franklin toward Second Street. He went to check on a Washington lady who had been hanging out in the shade of a local business.

"Now this lady up here, she may be a little out of her element," he said. "Now, she might start yelling at us. She is mute and deaf ... she has kind of frightened some folks who don't understand her."

The woman was expelled from the homeless shelter, and looked uneasy as Ervin approached her. Ervin wrote a note and handed it to her. The woman excitedly wrote back, and then smiled. The officer then moved on and turned the corner, heading toward some other shops to check in.

"It's reassuring to have someone to call when it is not a big crime, but it is something you would like the police department to deal with," Foggy Mountain shop manager Betsy Fischer said.

City manager Rod Swope and Police Chief Greg Browning had been negotiating for a permanent downtown officer position for years. It is a successful position in many communities down south.

"If the officer has the right personality, they get to know all the business owners, ... local clientele and the area," Swope said. "Ervin has that personality. Plus, he is a familiar face from his patrol nights, so if he deals with an inebriated individual they are more willing to work with him."

• Contact Klas Stolpe at

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