If it's true that history repeats itself, by mid July use of Kenai's beaches will explode. But before the first dipnetter sticks his or her net into the water, the Kenai Police Department plans to be prepared for the thousands more that are likely close behind.
"Police presence is crucial to maintain order, access to the fishery and everything that goes with it," said Lt. Kim Wannamaker of the Kenai Police Department.
Every year the police department hires two seasonal officers to supplement its force by handling city code violations and helping to maintain the dipnet fishery. But in anticipation of an even larger dipnet season and a busier summer, the police department is seeking four seasonal officers this year.
"We look for somebody with good decision-making skills, good judgement and good team players," Wannamaker said. "People who present themselves in a good command presence. People who realize they're representing the city."
The police department will post a notice on the Peninsula Job Center's Web site that it seeks four seasonal officers to work 40 hours a week from the first week of June through mid to late August. The dipnet fishery opens July 10 and draws folks from Anchorage and the Matanuska-Susitna Valley in addition to Kenai Peninsula residents, Wannamaker said. Managing the fishery is a year-long process that involves all city departments ranging from public safety to parks and recreation. A seasonal officer's main job is to maintain peace and order.
The seasonal population boom has its complications. Each year, Kenai police officers, both seasonal and full-time, respond to a large number of ATV complaints, camping complaints and traffic issues. Fights often break out and Wannamaker said it's not uncommon for an officer to respond to an assault or a domestic violence complaint on the beach. Theft is also a common complaint
"(Seasonal officers) patrol and they spend a lot of time in areas known for camping, trespassing or squatting problems, ATV (complaints) and littering," Wannamaker said. "They have the authority to issue city citations that involve anything in the city's code."
The police department will provide structured training before seasonal officers start working. The pay is $14 an hour and officers either work four 10-hour shifts or five eight-hour shifts, depending on the department's needs, Wannamaker said. Most officers are also local, Wannamaker said, coming from Kenai, Soldotna, Sterling, Kasilof or Nikiski. This is important because officers need to know the Kenai city limits well, he said.
Even though seasonal officers have the authority to issue city citations, Wannamaker said they will probably call police dispatch rather than stop someone running a red light. Officers won't carry firearms, but will be armed with pepper spray as a defensive precaution, Wannamaker said.
Applicants must be at least 18 years old with a high school diploma or the equivalent, Wannamaker said. They must have a good driving history and have demonstrated through references that they are reliable, truthful, dependable and have a good work ethic. Job applications are available at the Peninsula Job Center in the Kenai Mall and at the police department.
Even though times get crazy during the dipnet fishery, Wannamaker said he likes it. City departments spend all year anticipating the busiest time of year for Kenai's resources, but Wannamaker said it's the city's chance to be a good host.
"It just brings an influx of people and activity," he said. "That's what public service is about, to be good hosts to the visitors of the city."
Jessica Cejnar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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