Legislature(2005 - 2006)BUTROVICH 205
04/12/2006 08:30 AM JUDICIARY
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* first hearing in first committee of referral
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= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SB 134-POLICE INVESTIGATION STANDARDS/ARRESTS 8:56:35 AM CHAIR RALPH SEEKINS announced SB 134 to be up for consideration. SENATOR CHARLIE HUGGINS moved to adopt version C as the working document before the committee. Hearing no objections, the motion carried. SENATOR CON BUNDE advised that the Office of Victim's Rights (OVR) supports the committee substitute (CS). 8:58:15 AM SENATOR BUNDE said with a state as diverse as Alaska and the challenges of investigation, not all victims are treated with a high standard of investigation. The bill was created at the request of the Department of Public Safety (DPS). The bill would charge the Alaska Police Standards Council (APSC) with creating standards and protocol for sexual assault investigations and would require that when an officer is privy to an admission of guilt that an arrest must be made at some point during the investigation. Under current practices, crime victims and the public at large have no direct method to question the practices of police investigations or conduct. The bill would work to resolve that issue by relegating the office of the APSC the ability to take complaints and resolve issues. 9:03:28 AM SENATOR GENE THERRIAULT asked Senator Bunde the reason the bill was tailored to crimes in the first degree since often there are plea bargains, which reduce the charges. SENATOR BUNDE advised the plea-bargaining doesn't happen until after the charge. He wanted the bill to focus on the most serious crimes. 9:05:20 AM WALTER MONEGAN, Anchorage Chief of Police, voiced support for SB 134. He said the Department intends to heighten professionalism during investigations. SENATOR HOLLIS FRENCH shared Senator Bunde's concern that there might be many more cases than the public is aware of. He asked the number of cases that might apply wherein a sex assault has been investigated but not brought to charges. He said that is the person he sees who would go to OVR to file a complaint. MR. MONEGAN said there are about 25 percent that the police department can do nothing with. That number represents the percentage of people who don't have much information but feel the need to report a possible case. He speculated that it was approximately 100-150 cases a year statewide. 9:10:25 AM SENATOR BUNDE advised Senator French that the OVR would reserve the right to review the case to see if it warranted further investigation. 9:12:51 AM SENATOR FRENCH voiced support for the bill but questioned the effective date and that the offense had to have occurred before July 10, 2003. SENATOR BUNDE deferred the question to Dean Guaneli from the Department of Law. CHAIR SEEKINS asked Senator Bunde to give the committee a brief summary of the CS. SENATOR BUNDE said the CS is vastly different than the original bill. The original bill allowed that the APSC would develop universal standards and then enforce them. Law enforcement agencies disagreed with that concept. CHAIR SEEKINS noted the fiscal notes have all been updated. 9:17:30 AM MARY ANNE HENRY, Director, Office of Victim's Rights (OVR) voiced support for the bill but expressed concern regarding timely investigations. She has doubt that the OVR would garner the information that the bill sponsor is seeking. The reason is that the bill limits the OVR to only investigating and keeping statistics and complaints from a victim. That leaves a lot of sexual assaults that will be missed. Many victims do not complain to the OVR. 9:19:43 AM MS. HENRY advised she has only been working for five weeks but has seen two cases where the victim did not come to OVR until it was too late so there was nothing they could do. The woman had originally advised the troopers about it but failed to follow up and the troopers admittedly "dropped the ball." She cited another case where they noticed the investigation seemed to be taking too long. When she called to check into it she found out the investigating agency hadn't sent the DNA sample to the lab and nobody at the lab called looking for it. She said she feared that if it is only limited to complaints from a victim that the office would not get the sexual assault cases the bill sponsor was trying to find. Once a victim has reported the assault and months go by, they give up and do not pursue it. 9:22:03 AM MS. HENRY suggested having a requirement that all law enforcement agencies fax OVR a cover sheet whenever they take a rape complaint. The problem with tracking complaints versus investigations is that her jurisdiction is limited and she is only allowed to investigate when a victim complains. 9:24:36 AM SENATOR FRENCH commended Ms. Henry for her work and said he envisioned a close relationship between OVR and APD. He suggested the two offices sit down on a quarterly basis and review the cases that are open and prosecutable. MS. HENRY agreed that would be possible. 9:27:08 AM SENATOR FRENCH asked whether the bill would give her the authority to review police reports and evidence. MS. HENRY said yes. SENATOR FRENCH asked whether she thought the effective date was acceptable. He noted that with new technology the testing of cold cases via DNA was seeing good results. MS. HENRY said she wasn't involved in the effective date discussion. 9:31:58 AM DEAN GUANELI, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Department of Law (DOL), explained the changes in the CS. He said although he appreciated the work on the bill, it wasn't clear that there was a systemic problem or whether it was the case of a particular officer needing additional training or whether it was something else. 9:36:00 AM MR. GUANELI directed his comments to the question of the effective date. He said it was a reasonable date to choose to go back to because it would go back to a point where municipal agencies are still liable. 9:37:43 AM The way the CS was drafted takes advantage of OVR's existing procedures and that means that OVR investigates only the complaints received from victims. They can request and review confidential records and work with the necessary agencies to resolve cases. He said it might be going too far to have law enforcement agencies reporting to the OVR because victims have a right to confidentiality even if it is being reported to an agency of the Legislature, which OVR is. Victim's rights statute limit how much information police can affirmatively divulge. 9:41:24 AM MR. GUANELI said the existing procedures work well and he is comfortable with the CS as it stands. Commissioner Tandeske is satisfied as well, he said. 9:42:34 AM CHAIR SEEKINS asked Mr. Guaneli whether investigatory agencies give out standardized information of service to victims. MR. GUANELI said yes. The material varies from agency to agency. CHAIR SEEKINS expressed an interest in reviewing the information that is provided to victims. MS. HENRY advised the committee of the pamphlet given to victims. However it is very complicated and she is working on making it clearer. 9:46:59 AM SENATOR GUESS asked how children and mentally disabled people are handled. MS. HENRY said the legal guardian or parent generally files the complaint. MR. GUANELI reminded the committee that the definition of victim for a child victim includes the parent. 9:52:48 AM CHAIR SEEKINS asked Senator Bunde whether he approves of the bill as it is with the committee substitute. SENATOR BUNDE said the CS was an adequate compromise. CHAIR SEEKINS closed public testimony. SENATOR GUESS moved CSSB 134(JUD) with individual recommendations and attached fiscal notes. Hearing no objections, the motion carried.