Haines Police Chief Heath Scott is asking the borough to budget for a fifth police officer. (Emily Files)

Haines Police Chief Heath Scott recommended the public safety commission be broadened to focus more on community health and wellness. (Emily Files)

The Haines Public Safety Commission may broaden its scope and membership, following a recommendation from the police chief. Chief Heath Scott says the expansion would give the group more of a ‘holistic’ approach to public safety, with a stronger emphasis on health and wellness.

Early this summer, the public safety commission had a meeting about drug abuse. Representatives from the Haines clinic, Lynn Canal Counseling, and school were there. After that meeting, Police Chief Scott had an idea.

“I would like to take a more holistic approach to the public safety commission,” Scott said.

He recommended adding three ex-officio members to the commission: the clinic administrator, a behavioral health clinician, and the school principal. Scott says it would broaden the group’s focus, beyond enforcement and emergency response.

“These are not invisible stakeholders,” Scott said. “When we deal with issues within the community, we lean very heavily on these people. These people have been part of the solution for some time, we’re just not recognizing them at this level. And I think we do a disservice to the people we serve by not recognizing that.”

The assembly would probably have to alter code to facilitate this change. Code says the public safety commission’s main responsibilities are to promote positive relationships with police, fire and emergency medical departments, advise the assembly on the organization and policies of those departments, and review police statistics. The commission also has potential sway in police chief hiring.

Right now, the police and fire chief are the only ex-officio members on the commission, as dictated by code.

Borough manager Debra Schnabel supported Scott’s suggestion. She said the duties of the commission could be expanded to take community wellness into account.

“So in other words, you’re not just talking about public safety issues, you’re not just talking about police issues, you’re talking about wellness issues,” Schnabel said. “That would become a part of your overall mission and scope.”

The commission was agreeable to the idea. They voted to recommend it to the assembly.

But that left one question remaining. At the commission’s meeting in June, it voted to create a drug awareness task force. That task force has not been formed. The commissioners weren’t sure whether that was their responsibility or the assembly’s.

“Are we creating the task force, or is the borough, or has there been one created?” asked Judy Erekson.

Scott suggested the commission itself be the task force, especially if the three wellness-focused members are added.

But the commission didn’t do that. Instead, they voted to ask the assembly to create a drug awareness group, with no advice about who should serve on it.