Anchorage police reassign head of dispatch unit

Posted: Sunday, September 22, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- The officer in charge of dispatchers at the Anchorage Police Department has been reassigned, six weeks after police could not find the Eagle River home of former Alaska State Trooper head Glenn Godfrey the night he was killed.

In his first major personnel shift since the Aug. 3 dispatch failure, Police Chief Walt Monegan said he wanted a new supervisor so he could implement rapid changes in training, organization and technology.

Patrol Lt. Stephen Smith will take over for Lt. Kristen Miller, Monegan said.

''Steve brings with him a quality of high energy. He's very well organized and very well educated and read,'' Monegan said.

Monegan said Miller is not being disciplined for the errors at the dispatch center that resulted in a 48-minute delay in coming to the aid of Godfrey's wife, Patti, who was in danger of bleeding to death from bullet wounds.

Rather, Monegan said, he needed new leadership to overcome long-standing staffing and technical problems that have surfaced since the Godfrey case.

While Miller will officially move to patrol, two shoulder injuries will keep her on light duty off the streets. She will continue working on an ongoing effort to equip patrol cars with mobile computers.

Dennis Fradley, spokesman for Mayor George Wuerch, said that of the 56 dispatch positions authorized in the budget, only 39 are filled and four are new trainees. Karen Kurtz, police union shop steward at the dispatch center, said those 35 workers put in 876 hours of overtime in a recent two-week pay period, a common occurrence that results in exhaustion and poor morale and contributes to rapid turnover.

At the same time, police estimate that thousands of addresses in the municipality are improperly recorded in databases used by dispatchers.

In testimony 10 days ago before the public safety committee of the Anchorage Assembly, Miller herself described a dispatch system in crisis, said Assemblyman Allan Tesche, who chaired the meeting.

Monegan said he hoped Smith could implement personnel changes that would lead to more recruitment and faster trained employees.

Only months after he resigned as Alaska's commissioner of public safety, Godfrey was shot and killed in his home. Police said the killer was his ex-lover, Karen Brand, who also shot and wounded Patti Godfrey before turning the gun on herself and committing suicide.

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