City challenges agency's jurisdiction in 911 case

Posted: Sunday, December 01, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- The city of Anchorage is challenging a report issued this week by the new Alaska Office of Victims' Rights.

In its report, the office said the city's 911 dispatch center is seriously flawed and makes recommendations for improvement. But the city attorney's office is questioning whether the state office has any business getting involved in municipal affairs.

''It is doubtful the (Office of Victims' Rights) has jurisdiction to investigate or make findings regarding the Anchorage Metropolitan Police Department,'' the city contends.

However, state Sen. Rick Halford, the retiring Senate president from Chugiak who authored the law that created the legislative office, doesn't agree with the city's view.

''It is certainly within the intent,'' Halford said. ''You have to assume because there is so much overlap between municipal law enforcement and state law enforcement, you need to have complete review on both sides of that line.''

The investigation concluded that gunshot victim Patti Godfrey's right to immediate medical care was violated this summer when she had to wait more than 48 minutes for police and an ambulance after dialing 911.

Patti Godfrey, the wife of Glenn Godfrey, the former head of the Alaska State Troopers slain Aug. 3 in his Eagle River home, was at risk of bleeding to death herself after she was shot four times.

Dispatchers ignored the address she repeatedly gave them and instead relied on inadequate computer information. They didn't ask for directions to her house until 40 minutes into the conversation.

While Halford didn't anticipate anything like the Godfrey case, he said the investigation is appropriate and should produce good results.

''I expect the report is fairly critical of the municipality, as it should be,'' Halford said. ''But critical doesn't mean personally negative. It means we should take a share of the responsibility and fix it.''

Halford said the new office is needed to ensure that victims' constitutional and statutory rights are protected.

The head of the agency is Steve Branchflower, an Anchorage prosecutor for 27 years. He was nominated as victims advocate by a legislative panel and confirmed in the job by a 59-0 vote of the Legislature in May. He started in July.

Asked about his office's authority, Branchflower pointed to a section of the law that says ''the victims' advocate may investigate complaints from crime victims that they have been denied the rights they are guaranteed under the constitution and laws of this state.''

The office has broad powers to subpoena documents and witness testimony. To protect victims, much of its work is confidential.

While the Godfrey investigation produced its first public report, his office has worked with dozens of other victims, Branchflower said.

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