About 50 years after it was founded, the Unalaska Department of Public Safety is undergoing its first independent review.
Public Safety has hired a private company called Russell Consulting to do the assessment.
“Our goal is to help the Unalaska Department of Public Safety provide good services -- excellent and outstanding services -- to community members who live here and to guests who come in,” said Greg Russell, a retired police officer who opened the Soldotna-based firm 15 years ago.
Russell said he’s gathering information on Public Safety’s policies and practices, so he can compare them to state and national standards.
He’s pulling official documents from the police, fire, and corrections divisions, as well as interviewing people who interact with them. That means current and former employees, community members, local business owners, and more.
The final result will look something like a report card for Public Safety -- an analysis that identifies problems in the department and recognizes its successes.
Unalaska isn’t alone in taking a closer look at its services, according to Russell. He said police forces across the country are tightening up, as lawmakers face tough decisions about funding public safety.
“They’re taking hard looks at their programs and saying, ‘Can we make them more efficient? Can we do more with less?’" he said. "They appreciate input that community members provide so they don’t ever pursue cuts arbitrarily.”
Officials with the Alaska Department of Corrections have said they expect budget cuts this year. That could affect the Community Jails Program, which supports 15 jails across the state, including Unalaska’s.
Public Safety Director Mike Holman said he’s not too concerned at the moment, but he’s already had a few ideas to streamline the department.
“One of the things I know we need to improve on is our training records," said Holman. "Each division has its own system for keeping records and different requirements. Centralizing them is a much better idea.”
Holman said the review also provides an opportunity to explore bigger possibilities, like splitting Public Safety into separate departments for fire and police.
“Is it more efficient to remove the fire division and create a different department? Or is it efficient to keep it as one public safety department? The assessors are looking at all that stuff,” he said.
The assessors will also release an online survey to gather feedback from the community.
After the review wraps up in April, Holman said Public Safety will present the findings in a community forum and use them to guide future changes to the department.