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Short on staff, Anchorage police records division falls behind on report requests

  • Author: Jerzy Shedlock
  • Updated: October 24, 2016
  • Published October 23, 2016

Requests for reports at the Anchorage Police Department have stacked up due to a shortage of staff and a continuous flow of work.

A police report requested online typically takes four to five days to fulfill, said APD records supervisor Jennifer York. However, the records division currently is behind on requests by about three to four weeks, she said.

There were 431 pending requests as of last week, according to the police department.

APD receives public records and police report requests on a daily basis. The requests are filed by residents, attorneys, organizations, businesses and the media, said spokeswoman Jennifer Castro.

Here's how a request gets where it needs to go: Clerks determine which case the request is for, if the case is closed or open, and following state public records laws, they make sure certain information is redacted if it cannot be shared in a police report.

"They are trying to fill those requests as quickly as possible," Castro said.

Some requests take priority over others. For example, requests from state organizations typically take about 10 days to fill.

Eight clerk positions are vacant in the records division. The police department plans to fill four of those positions starting early next year, York said. The application portion of the hiring process ends Monday.

Hiring four positions is the best the police department can do at the moment due to budgetary constraints, Castro said.

Clerks serve as an essential part of the police department. They have three main priorities in addition to fulfilling records requests: staffing the front counter; processing paperwork like warrants that come from the Alaska Court System and state and local attorneys; and taking phone calls for things like stolen property and missing persons, among other things, York said.

"We have other items we have to do throughout the day," York said. "Those are typically done by the clerk at the front counter when it's slow — they will go and work on approving reports, records requests, the filing and scanning of documents."

That work has led to a total of 218 arrests so far in 2016, according to the police department. York said she is proud of those numbers. She said the clerks' input touches many other investigations at APD that eventually lead to arrests. (Clerks are unsworn officers.)

York said the staff is doing its best to fulfill the records requests in a timely manner. Most of the backlog resulted from online requests.

People making requests who come to the front counter can get what they want immediately, though there are exceptions, like reports that may need redactions or approval from a superior before being released to the public, she said.

Clerks also go through the online reports to determine if any follow-up or further information needs to be pursued either by the police department or by the person who filed the complaint.

York is confident the records department can reduce the backlog of requests with more hands.

"The more people we have, the more (requests) we can process in a day," she said. "For each person that comes in, our productivity will go up. We're looking forward to that and are doing the absolute best we can."

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