From David Hulen in Anchorage --
Under attack for the circumstances surrounding the dismissal of commissioner Walt Monegan, the Palin administration today issued a lengthy statement laying out a "new direction" for the Department of Public Safety.
Among the components: Filling vacant positions, improving recruitment and doing more to crack down on alcohol and drug crime.
(Update, Saturday 10 p.m.: A couple of readers have pointed out that the Palin "new direction" is similar to a strategic plan for the department rolled out by Monegan and other Public Safety officials in December, raising the question: Is the new direction really new? And if not, was a change in direction really the reason Monegan got the boot?)
The statement, issued by Deputy Press Secretary Sharon Leighow, also included a separate defense of the administration's funding of public safety programs.
Among the criticisms against Palin in recent days was that she wasn't specific about why Monegan was fired, nor in describing the direction she wanted the department headed. Some critics, including the head of the public safety employees union, complained that Palin didn't support programs sought by Monegan.
Here's the statement:
Governor Announces New Direction for Department of Public Safety
July 19, 2008, Anchorage, Alaska – Governor Sarah Palin and Public Safety Commissioner Chuck Kopp today outlined a new direction for the Department of Public Safety. The Governor has directed Commissioner Kopp to focus on working cooperatively with state agencies, the military and other entities to expand the pool of applicants to fill vacant trooper positions and formulate an action plan to deal with rural crime issues.
“I am committed to bringing a balanced managerial and leadership perspective to the Department of Public Safety,” said Kopp. “I will help form and then carry out the policy set forth by the Office of the Governor and meet the mission and needs of the department.”
Highlights of the plan include:
- Efficiently using trooper resources and filling vacancies. One example is to reclassify existing open trooper job positions to job classes (Court Services and investigative support positions) that are more easily filled, allowing troopers to carrying out a full range of public safety services.
- Comprehensively review the issues of alcohol and drug abuse and crime, particularly in rural Alaska. Additionally, consider adding manpower for alcohol and drug interdiction efforts.
- Cooperatively work with state and federal agencies and other entities as part of a multi-agency effort that focuses on outreach, education, treatment and prevention, and law enforcement as part of an answer to alcohol and drug abuse prevention problems in rural Alaska.
- Establish strong lateral communications between departments to accomplish the mission of each department and to assist those agencies in meeting their missions.
- Establish a recruiting effort focusing on returning National Guard troops and other military service members, VPSO’s and Alaska Natives.
- Increase training for troopers and VPSO’s.
- Propose legislation that will slow the flow of alcohol to rural Alaska, particularly communities that have voted to restrict alcohol. One example would be reducing the amount of alcohol that can be shipped by written orders into rural Alaska.
“I have high expectations and confidence in Commissioner Kopp’s ability to lead the department in this new direction,” Governor Palin said. “His willingness to think outside the box and find new ways to work cooperatively with state agencies will improve the public safety of all Alaskans.”
Here's the budget statement:
Department of Public Safety
FY2009 Operating and Capital Budget – Summary FY2009
Overall, the operating budget for Department of Public Safety increased $10.1 million from last year.
Funding for Alaska State Troopers and Alaska Wildlife Troopers
Governor Palin requested $1.1 million for five new troopers and $3.5 million for funding existing trooper positions, vehicles, training, and associated costs for a total of $4.6 million. The legislature funded $2.3 million of that amount.
SEA Contract Increased
The recently concluded contract negotiations with the Public Safety Employee Association results in a 5 percent salary increase beginning July 1, 2008; a 3 percent increase effective July 1, 2009; and a 3 percent increase effective July 1, 2010. The approved contract also provides incentives for Alaska Police Standards Council Certificates, premium pay for department pilots and Special Emergency Response Team members, health benefits increases from $851 to $868, and rural relocation extension incentives.
There are 395 budgeted trooper positions including AST and AWT. As of June 30 there were 56 vacant positions. There is a critical need to fill these positions and the department is working diligently to fill these positions.
Governor Palin set a savings target of $20 million for the FY2009 operating budget for all state agencies. Public Safety’s savings target is $2.3 million.
The Governor’s expectation is that all departments will be fiscally responsible. She directed agencies to look for savings in FY2009 by finding efficiencies and implementing changes in business processes and practices that could ultimately result in some savings.
We have NOT asked agencies to cut services or positions. There was no intent to make agencies take drastic steps to achieve their targets that would hurt the mission of the department.
The Governor’s request for the Capital Budget was approved by the legislature with one exception. The Governor had proposed $100 million in GO Bonds to fund construction of a new state crime lab. The Legislature funded $12 million for design and site preparation.
|DPS budget summary.pdf||18.57 KB|