Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

Policing issue heads GAS committee


November 14, 2019

Despite its new three-members, the Haines Borough Assembly is no closer to a solution on areawide policing.

On Tuesday, the same resolution that failed two months ago was brought up again, this time by assembly member Brenda Josephson.

According to borough charter, the borough may provide “emergency dispatch” on an areawide basis. However, police service is limited to the townsite. Josephson, acting on borough clerk Alekka Fullerton’s September advice, wants to pass a resolution that interprets emergency dispatch to include the dispatch of police services.

“The resolution right here is just about clarification, it’s not about a funding mechanism,” Josephson said. “We have actually been providing this service through the budget. The police budget this year is the largest that it’s been in the past couple of years. If we want to broaden the discussion, I think the budget time would be when we should speak to that.”

Assembly member Sean Maidy said that passing the resolution would create a loophole in charter.

“This is not a ‘what does dispatch mean’ question,” he said. “This is a ‘changing the intent of a definition to circumvent charter’ question. Even if we were to acknowledge that dispatch in charter, we still wouldn’t be able to send (police services) outside of the townsite.”

Maidy said he recently talked to 20 experts in the field of law enforcement and criminal justice, including professors and police chiefs, who supported his position. He later told the CVN that all of the individuals he talked to spoke to him “on the condition of anonymity.”

At the meeting, Maidy said it’s not the assembly’s role to interpret charter, although borough clerk Alekka Fullerton disagrees. “The Haines Borough Assembly is exactly the body that is supposed to interpret charter,” Fullerton said.

In August, Borough attorney Brooks Chandler weighed in that “the charter should be interpreted as originally intended.”

He said the reference of emergency dispatch in charter is “not intended to authorize ‘emergency’ police response outside the townsite. Actual police officers responding beyond townsite limits are a component of the operation of a ‘police department’ not a component of …emergency dispatch.’”

Chandler said that, now that circumstances have changed in Haines and troopers no longer patrol outside townsite boundaries, the charter may need to change to reflect that. “This is preferable to strained interpretations of the dispatch function to include officer response.”

Assembly member Zephyr Sincerny said that putting weight on what the borough attorney suggests is worthy of consideration.

Assembly member Paul Rogers said he doesn’t think the issue is complex. “I think if we do this definition as it’s been proposed, it grants the police the responsibility to go outside the townsite in emergencies. I think that’s all you need. I don’t think you need a charter amendment to do that. I think this is a simple case of having the assembly react to a situation and grant the police the opportunity to do what they think they need to be able to do,” he said. “And I don’t think it’s more complicated than that.”

Schnabel told assembly members that expanding emergency service would require funding. “If this passes you are effectively saying that you’re agreeing to pay for the services of your police department outside of your jurisdiction,” she said. “I think the inclusion of how this is going to be paid for is appropriate.”

Schnabel said the cost would be estimated at $70,000.

Scott moved to send the resolution to committee for clarification on resolution language, and potential impact on charter, Haines Police and residents. The motion passed with Rogers opposed.

The government affairs and services committee meeting has yet to be scheduled.


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