The new guy on the beat

Posted: Monday, November 15, 2010

Juneau Police Officer Brent Bartlett is rather new to the force, but not new to walking the community safety beat.

Klas Stolpe / Juneau Empire
Klas Stolpe / Juneau Empire

"I treat it like I treated 'A' sector in Iraq," Bartlett said as he walked along Franklin Street on Wednesday morning. "You want to meet the business owners."

Bartlett was a squad leader in Iraq. He graduated from Juneau-Douglas High School in 1996 and enlisted in the Army. He became an Airborne Infantryman and served as a paratrooper for two years in Vicenza, Italy and two years at Fort Bragg.

In 2001 he joined the Army National Guard and also started his eight years working as a corrections officer at Lemon Creek Correctional Center.

"In Iraq they were apprehensive about us at first," Bartlett said. "I mean, we had 15 guys in four giant armored vehicles driving through their community. After a while it became easy to familiarize with faces. The shopkeepers would tell me what they saw or needed help with. Of course it is easier here because I speak the language."

In February of 2009, Bartlett joined Juneau Police Department, and graduated from the Department of Public Safety Training Academy in Sitka June 4. He completed field training in September. Bartlett's father, David, retired from JPD after a stint from the 1970s to 1996. Bartlett is married and has two children.

As Bartlett checked an alley on Admiral Way, behind the site of the former police station that Bartlett said he would do his homework in while waiting for his father to finish a shift, he discussed the homeless men, women and children he encounters during his rounds.

"They really don't have anywhere to go. A shop owner told me about this place. It is a tough time of year for the homeless. They can't sleep in doorways or on the sidewalks, and the Glory Hole only has so many spaces available."

As if on cue, Community Service Officer Rebecca Notmeyer appears and the two address the camping ordinance. They browse through the Officers' Field Manual to find City and Bureau of Juneau ordinance 53.09.340.

"Basically you don't camp somewhere unless it says you can," Bartlett says. "You can't camp on a public right-of-way, or in excess of 48 hours on designated spots, or within one-half mile of the same location."

CSOs carry no weapons except for pepper spray, and do not have arrest authority. They do, however, write close to 30 tickets a day, down from the days of 60 tickets, and are always close to JPD officers.

Later, at the Miner's Mercantile Building, Bartlett pushes on a tiny corner panel that swings open, revealing a small shelf in which, presumably, someone could crawl into for a nap.

"Found this purely by accident," Bartlett said. "Surprised someone sleeping, too."

Bartlett will make a circuit in the downtown business district six to eight times during his shift.

"Low man on the totem pole," Bartlett says with a smile in regards to walking the downtown beat. "It is actually a nice beat. It is one that isn't always available."

The department bids out its work shifts. Officers with seniority get to pick shifts. The JPD substation will move into a new location soon at the Downtown Parking Center, which will increase space and productivity for the department.

Bartlett continues to walk past the morning's first business owners there to open their shops. As they unlock their doors they share pleasantries. Bartlett usually tries to be on this beat around this time.

"Community policing is the same no matter where you are," Bartlett said. "Iraq or Juneau, you meet the shop owners and find out their concerns. I wear a lot less Kevlar and I am not as heavily armed here though."

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



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