The Nome Police Department’s progress towards accreditation was a major topic of discussion during the city’s Public Safety Advisory Commission meeting on Monday night.
In general, accreditation is a third-party approval of an organization’s qualifications to perform police work for a city.
Nome PD has never been an accredited police agency, but police chief Mike Heintzelman said it should be in about two years.
According to Nome City Manager Glenn Steckman, accreditation, in his experience, leads to a “tremendous level of professionalism” in a police department.
To achieve the goal of accreditation, the department is going through a series of changes to its policy manual, the way that evidence is stored and recorded, and includes updates to police video cameras in vehicles and the department’s emergency radio systems, Heintzelman said.
The first step is to update the policies and procedures used by the department, according to Heintzelman.
“(Policies are) a standardized way of doing certain practices. And a good portion of that happens to be with our policy manual, which dictates everything that basically we do as police officers,” Heintzelman said.
One part of the change that Nome PD is involved in is making sure each officer has the latest training in dealing with sex offenses in the community.
“That is part of the training that we try and make sure that every one of our officers has. There is no set amount of training that is required by accreditation. However, as the department goes, you’re only as good as the experience in the department,” Heintzelman said.
The evidence locker at NPD is also getting a revamp. All evidence will soon be tagged with barcodes. Scanners will be able to log and identify every piece of evidence related to cases under investigation.
“Evidence itself is one of the most important things and any particular case that we would take to trial … It dictates the facts of the evidence as it is,” Heintzelman said. “(It is) the physical portion of that particular offense and then has to be handled in a certain way.”
The Public Safety Advisory Commission put forward a proposal for NPD to implement in-car video systems, both dash and prisoner cams. The systems would be added to NPD’s body-cam products by being installed in patrol vehicles.
That proposal is pending final approval for FY-24 from the Common Council.
“In-car cameras will provide a recording of any transports we do,” Heintzelman said. “It might be someone just needing a ride, or it might be a subject that being transported to headquarters or the jail. So, it’s just one other piece of the puzzle. As far as a video of what transpired throughout the day, you know, and whether it be a transport or whether it be an arrest.”
Chief Heintzelman said three in-car police radios systems are also slated for replacement.
“It is very antiquated, and we’ve had some problems with it,” Heintzelman said. “We’ve had problems with, you know, with the ability to transmit or an officer’s ability to transmit.”
During the discussion on accreditation, Heintzelman also provided the commission with the department’s quarterly report. It shows, between Jan. 1 and March 31, a total of 93 arrests — of which 87 percent, or 81 total arrests — were alcohol-related. A total of 243 calls to 911 were logged during that time.
Image at top: The Nome Public Safety Advisory Commission meets on Monday, April 3. Photo by Greg Knight, KNOM (2023).