Legislature(2005 - 2006)BUTROVICH 205
03/17/2005 03:30 PM STATE AFFAIRS
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* first hearing in first committee of referral
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SB 134-POLICE INVESTIGATION STANDARDS/ARRESTS 3:40:30 PM VICE-CHAIR THOMAS WAGONER announced SB 134 to be up for consideration and asked for a motion to adopt the committee substitute (CS). SENATOR KIM ELTON moved CSSB 134, \Y version, as the working document. There being no objection, it was so ordered. 3:41:14 PM SENATOR CON BUNDE, Sponsor, told members he is expecting more information from the Department of Public Safety (DPS) and asked that the committee take no action until that information is received. He reported that Alaska has the unfortunate and shameful legacy of leading the nation in sexual assaults. Alaska is diverse and has many small communities. If those communities had more resources, they would be better able to address the high level of sexual assaults. SB 134 would require the Police Standards Council to set a level of standards for investigation in sexual assault cases and to enforce those standards. Small communities may not have access to the latest techniques, equipment and training and may be unaware of what the public might expect. The legislation seeks to create a common standard so that the expectations for police enforcement would be the same in Anchorage as in a village. The Police Standards Council should decide on the professionalism of any police officer regarding discipline, reprimand and revocation of certification. With few exceptions, police officers maintain high standards and do the best job possible. The Alaska Medical Association disciplines its own members and the Police Standards Council should discipline police officers, he asserted. The committee substitute addresses a requirement for arrest by giving police officers more latitude to make arrests based on probable cause. 3:45:54 PM VICE-CHAIR WAGONER announced a brief at-ease at 3:46:44 PM. 3:47:36 PM TAMARA DELUCIA, Office of Victims Rights, stated support for the measure to standardize procedures and to require cases to be submitted to the district attorney (DA) for review. This would benefit victims in particular in light of the high rate of sexual assault crimes in Alaska. SB 134 provides a very good opportunity for the Police Standards Council to level the playing field and bring rural communities in line with investigation standards that exist in urban areas such as Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau. Small villages in rural communities are at a disadvantage because of the lack of proximity to troopers and the type of law enforcement system that's available. Anything that can be done to assist Village Public Safety Officers (VPSO) in pursuing a quality investigation can only be viewed as positive. 3:49:05 PM SENATOR ELTON read new language from version Y: (4) shall make an arrest at the time a peace officer determines to be appropriate and when the peace officer has reasonable cause to believe that a crime has been committed and the person to be arrested has admitted committing the crime to a peace officer or a peace officer has listened to a recording of the admission. Having assumed it works that way now, he asked for an example to the contrary. MS. DELUCIA responded the Office of Victims' Rights doesn't necessarily support the mandatory arrest provision, but it does support Section 2 that allows the Council to adopt regulations for minimum standards for the conduct of criminal investigations. She particularly favors delivering investigation results to the prosecutor, addressing victims safety concerns, writing incident reports and securing the crime scene. Every crime is different and certain evidence collection issues and arrest determinations shouldn't be standardized. However, for the most part they support the opportunity for APSC to set standards. VICE-CHAIR WAGONER noted that Senator Bunde wanted to address the question as well. SENATOR BUNDE referenced the new language and told Senator Elton that unfortunately that isn't the case. SB 134 is the result of a conversation with a constituent about an assault that occurred in which the offender admitted guilt, but no arrest took place. In discussing the situation with police authorities, he learned the police often do not arrest a person early in the investigation so that they can build a stronger case. His concern relates to the need to protect the public while not tying the hands of law enforcement. He suggested placing the names of such suspects in the system to assist in investigating other unsolved cases because many offenders are actually re- offenders. SENATOR ELTON asked if the decision to wait to arrest is based on the premise that you don't arrest the "little fish" to find the "bigger fish." SENATOR BUNDE said an arrest might be delayed so that the big fish is thoroughly hooked before prosecution begins. 3:53:37 PM MS. SARALYN TABACHNICK, Executive Director, Aiding Women in Abuse and Rape Emergencies (AWARE), spoke on behalf of victims of sexual assault and domestic violence. She explained that the crime of assault or rape is one of the most difficult to report because victims often feel shame or a sense of responsibility. Judgments are made about rape survivors that aren't made about other violent crimes survivors. Typically peace officers do a good job of investigating domestic and sexual assaults, but sexual assault survivors need messages that are clear in words and action so they know an investigation is moving forward to build the best case possible. SB 134 provides accountability, which can have a tremendous impact on holding offenders accountable and allowing survivors to heal from the victimization. 3:55:52 PM VICE-CHAIR WAGONER announced he would set CSSB 134, version Y, aside until next week.