Tuesday, March 28, 2017

New plan to strengthen trust between police and community

“We’re not just the people with the gun and badge,” Capt. Sean Case said last week as he explained Anchorage Police Department’s Community Action Policing (CAP) initiative and expanded foot patrols. We don’t just deal with something and go away, he said.

Capt. Case, along with Mayor Ethan Berkowitz, Sgt. Brian Williams, president of the Anchorage Police Department Employees Association (APDEA), Jamie Boring, executive director of the Anchorage Downtown Partnership, and Nora Morse, Special Assistant to Mayor Ethan Berkowitz, spoke about community policing at an event sponsored by the UAA Justice Club and Justice Center as part of National Criminal Justice Month.

L to R: Nora Morse, special assistant to the mayor, APD
Capt Sean Case, Sgt. Brian Williams, president of the Anchorage
Police Department Employees Association, and
Mayor Ethan Berkowitz discuss community policing
“We’re making contact with business owners. We’re making contact with people who live in the area,” Capt. Case said.  “It’s a communication-based approach.”

Mayor Berkowitz, who left an Assembly meeting to participate in the discussion, pointed out that “it is important to us to enhance community safety and to protect officer safety and do it in a way where there’s a lot of community trust.”

Anchorage is one of the most ethnically diverse communities in the country with four out of the five most diverse high schools. “Let’s show everyone else we can get along,” Mayor Berkowitz said.

The idea is to proactively prevent crime instead of react to it, according to a letter Mayor Berkowitz sent to the Anchorage community regarding APD’s 2017 Targeted Crime Plan.

“The police department is integral to everyone feeling safe. There is a tremendous amount of social work, a tremendous amount of counseling that goes into making sure you feel safe,” Mayor Berkowitz told a largely UAA student audience, many of whom are enrolled in Justice Center programs.

Three neighborhoods, Mountain View, Spenard and Fairview will get foot patrols. These three neighborhoods have been targeted because of a history of higher call column. They are condensed and easier to get to on foot. The communities have also been asking for better services.

The idea came from the Task Force on 21st Century Policing, Mayor Berkowitz said. The Task Force, created by President Barack Obama was part of the Administration’s efforts to “strengthen community policing and strengthen trust among law enforcement officers and the communities they serve.”

Jamie Boring, executive director of the Anchorage Downtown Partnership, spoke about the drop in crime downtown experienced with the addition of foot patrols.

Under Mayor Berkowitz, APD has grown to over 400 officers with another 56 in the training cycle. There are also more than 90 officers eligible to retire. Still, 2017 will see some gains, Capt. Case said, and encouraged students to think about applying for the academy.