Anchorage Police Department to cut 22 positions

Rosemary Shinohara

The Anchorage Police Department plans to cut 22 positions and shift eight detectives to patrol officer slots, but Chief Mark Mew said Friday that he doesn't expect to have to make any actual layoffs in January.

And, said Mew, the department saved enough on overtime this year that it might be able to pay for a police academy to train recruits in 2011. Police overtime will likely be $1.5 million to $2 million under budget for this year, Mew said.

The police chief and other city department heads discussed their projected 2011 budgets at an Anchorage Assembly work session Friday.

Mayor Dan Sullivan's 2011 budget calls for an increase of $13.8 million over this year to $435.2 million, but that's $15 million short of the amount needed to pay for the same size government as this year, the mayor has said. To help make up the difference, Sullivan proposes eliminating 110 positions citywide, with more than half of them vacant.

Mew said that so far attrition and grants are covering all but three of the 22 jobs expected to be eliminated in his department. And he believes more grant funding and attrition will take care of the rest.

The decision to change some detective positions to patrol officers is based on a recommendation from outside experts, who did a staffing study for the department.

"Our first priority is patrol," Mew said. "If we're down to one last officer, it would be a patrol officer."

With the switch of eight detectives plus two traffic officers to patrol, the city will maintain about the same level of patrol officers next year as in August, even though some have left, Mew said.

But traffic enforcement will change. For example, officers might not do special speeding enforcement on the busy streets as often, he said.

Police union president Derek Hsieh said he's pleased the chief has found ways to save employee jobs.

But, he said, when it comes to cutting eight of 40 detective spots, "We're down to the point where we need to seriously consider having more police."

The Anchorage Fire Department also may be able to cover positions that are being eliminated, said Chief Mark Hall. The fire department is planning to take out of service one ladder truck in Eagle River and an engine that serves Upper Hillside and Bear Valley.

Assemblyman Bill Starr of Eagle River questioned the cut of the Eagle River equipment and employees to staff it.

Assembly members will proposed amendments to Sullivan's 2011 spending plan over the next month. The Assembly will hold hearings on the budget Nov. 9 and 23, and is scheduled to begin debating it Dec. 7.

Proposed cuts to the People Mover bus system were also on the table Friday. Assemblyman Dick Traini asked specifically how much money would be needed to restore each of three proposed service cuts. People Mover director Jody Karcz said keeping a Mountain View route, 45G, would cost $130,000; keeping existing early morning and late-night runs would cost $190,000; and keeping the same level of trips during peak traffic times would cost $60,000.

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