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Monday, April 24, 2006


Alaska School Plot: A Local’s Take

Those of you who follow the news have heard that there was a group of Middle School students in North Pole, Alaska who were suspended because they were plotting a school shooting spree.

Although I claim Fairbanks as my home I do live closer to North Pole than to Fairbanks, indeed my address is a North Pole address. North Pole is a town of 1600 residents. There are (and this is an estimate on my part) another 10,000 residents who live within a few miles of North Pole.

The North Pole police department has a stake in this investigation, and that makes me skeptical of the news coming out of North Pole.

Two points.

First, this news broke locally a week ago. By all news accounts the threat was not serious. Classes were not interrupted. Now, a week later the story is in the national news and police are being dispatched to the school for the remainder of the year.

Second, the North Pole police are rather… rather… shall we say… aggressive. (Ahem- ah- ten-pound-badges- hem) They rule with a heavy hand in this area. The fact that NPPD has a stake in this situation is what makes me suspicious. The North Pole police exist to generate revenue for the city. At one time in the not too distant past, this town of 1600 had over a dozen police officers.

Keep in mind that I am a law and order guy. I think Rodney King should have gotten his ass kicked. I generally sympathize with the cop, not the poor criminal who shot trying to flee.

However, the North Pole police have a very poor image locally. They will not hesitate to fine your six-year-old for riding without a bike helmet in your own driveway five miles outside the city limits, at the same time they will refuse to respond to your emergency if you live 20 yards outside the city limits.

North Pole police will set speed traps 40+ MILES outside the city limit. The mayor and Chief of Police deny this, but I have seen it with my own eyes and it is a semi frequent topic in the letters to the editor and local radio program.

I used to live near a popular unimproved swimming-hole called “Bathing Beauty Pond”. It was several miles outside the city limits. There was one picnic table at Bathing Beauty Pond. There were two parking spots near the picnic table, both parking spots (at an unimproved pond on a gravel road in the country) were designated as handicap spots. There would be no one else at the pond. Families would routinely park near the table to unload their lunch, blankets, chairs and other picnic gear, then move their minivan across the road away from the handicap spots. The North Pole police would wait around the corner for families to arrive, unload their gear, then ticket them for parking in a handicap spot.

I do not know exactly what the benefit to the police department is, but I have no doubt that they are benefiting from the situation. I suspect that the school district (which is not part of the city) is paying to have the officer stationed at the school, and paying through the nose.

The North Pole High School and Middle School have a bad reputation for drugs. This could just be an attempt to get their foot in the door to have a full-time officer permanently stationed at the school. Ticketing drug offenders would bring a healthy stream of revenue into the city coffers, and possibly give them a better opportunity to bust marijuana growers and meth cooks in the area.

Who knows all the reasons? I don’t. But I can tell you this. Be suspicious of any news coming from North Pole. School shooting news is big news and the local police are not above exploiting that news for financial gain.


I understand that counselors are being brought in to help children cope with this "tragedy". My thought is that the School District found some way to milk this event for more funding from either state or federal sources. The North Pole police are still under suspicion due to their history, but they may just be going along for the ride. The school district might be the more important party in this shenanigan.

It was pointed out to me that North Pole had 20+ officers just a few years ago. Alas, the website that listed all of them has been taken down. I was thinking that the number was in excess of 20, but went with the more conservative number because I couldn't find the website in question.

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
(Okay, that was weird . . .)
Anyhow, nice take on the situation. I'm interested to see how this one plays out.
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