Report: Praise for police outpaces valid gripes

Posted: Tuesday, October 12, 2004

ANCHORAGE - A discipline report shows 10-20 Anchorage Police Department officers annually are written up for "avoidable traffic accidents" but that officers receive more compliments than valid complaints.

From 2000 through August 2004, police had more than 1 million contacts with the public, resulting in 990 complaints. Of those, 205 were found to be valid, according to the report. In the same period, police received about 650 compliments.

"I think it shows we're a very clean department," said Lt. Paul Honeman, commander of Internal Affairs. "That's not to say we don't make mistakes - we're human."

APD officials said they plan to publish conduct statistics online as a way of instilling more public confidence in police. The goal is part of a five-year strategic plan.

Police Chief Walt Monegan said APD last year purchased a new database program that allows for better tracking of officer conduct. The system will help police be more accountable and better identify internal problems that need to be addressed through training or discipline, he said.

About 25 Anchorage police officers are formally disciplined each year out of 350 or so on the force, the report said. That does not include verbal warnings. Most of the officers disciplined since 2000 received a written reprimand. The report also noted four firings of fully trained officers and nine suspensions.

Offenses ranged from inappropriate language to failure to document an investigation and negligently firing a gun.

The most common, about 15 per year, was "avoidable traffic accident."

Officers spend a lot of time driving and do things regular drivers are discouraged from, Honeman said. They talk on radios, look at mobile computers and rush to calls.

Even so, he said, the department expects officers to drive safely.

One fully trained officer was fired in 2001 for failing to comply with rules and regulations, the report said. The other three, also patrol officers, were fired last year for "performance of duty, deliberate inaccurate reporting of stats."

If an officer is caught being dishonest, Honeman said, it could lead to termination. Officers have to have credibility to get warrants, testify at trials and maintain public trust, he said.

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