City to lay legal foundation for a public safety committee
Acting City Manager John K. Handeland informed the Nome Common Council that Brooks Chandler, of the City’s long-retained attorney’s office would be coming to Nome in mid-February to meet with Council and the public concerning the legal foundations of a citizens’ committee on public safety.
Handeland has asked Chandler to spend Feb. 18 and 19 in Nome.
“It seemed most logical to start the process with the assistance of legal counsel, who is familiar with our organization, ordinances, and state law to develop the initial framework, and then if necessary, to pull in other resources,” Handeland said in his acting manager report. He added that he would like the Nome Police Department Chief Bob Estes to attend, but that the new chief would unfortunately be away at the police academy obtaining his Alaska certification.
Chandler would be in open meeting with the public invited the first day, and then spend the second day helping to put the committee within legal parameters which the community could flesh out with local input.
Several took the podium during the second public comment period on the agenda to express concern that first, the public safety committee would come to pass, and concern that it would retain its public aspect and public oversight. Conversation revealed that there is still question on whether the public committee would have a function of police oversight, police review, or a sex assault—domestic violence crime processing committee, according to Handeland.
The Council would determine the ordinance and mission with local input, not Chandler, Councilman Jerald Brown said. Keith Morrison expressed concern that the committee process would be one-sided from a City’s aspect, that it seamed that while attention to sex assault and domestic violence cases had been identified as the primary needs currently, it seemed that the establishment of a citizens’ committee might have changed from community driven to legal driven and involving the mayor, manager and Council. He wanted to see an organization less in-house and more responsive to outside, more objective ideas. Having a City attorney run the show “ really doesn’t give voice to outside experts,” Morrison said.
Also present during the Chandler session would be individuals with expertise, but an attorney’s guidance was needed to guide setting up the public committee. “The set up is important as well as the subject,” Brown said. There would be unfettered public comment, but also the guidance of Chandler, Brown added.
It was good to hear that there would be legal counsel available, Lisa Ellanna commented. However, she wasn’t sure that Brooks Chandler should be the facilitator, that he was not a disinterested party. She also commented that she had learned that some police officers had attended training in the biological and mental changes of victims of rape. Estes said training in interacting with victims of sex crimes could be added to a regular training program. The NPD procedures manual needed to be updated on investigation procedures and be sex assault and domestic violence trauma informed. There are different approaches to different types of crimes and personnel policies included in the manual, Ellanna observed. The police personnel policies would probably not stand alone, Handeland interjected, but be included in city-wide personnel policies. Sex assault and domestic violence issues did not appear on the Council meeting agenda, but only in public comment, Ellanna concluded.
At the beginning of the Council meeting, City Clerk Bryant Hammond administered the oath of office to two new police officer recruits.
The Council voted City budget midyear revisions from first into second reading for the next regular Council meeting. Brown urged Estes to elaborate on the NPD department budget and expansion of personnel hire at the next Council meeting as part of the City’s budget process. There will be an increase of $301,000 in the police department budget that will apply to personnel, vehicle maintenance, training and other operating expenses and equipment and machinery.
A memorandum from Julie Liew, finance director, to the Mayor Richard Beneville and the Council via Handeland showed a proposed beefing up of police personnel: addition of a lieutenant deputy chief, an increase from one full-time sergeant to two, increase from one investigator to three (one full-time and two temporary positions), an increase from six full-time officers to seven, an increase in dispatchers, a drop in Community Service Officers from three to two, addition of a full-time administrative assistant and one temporary evidence custodian.