City and Borough of Juneau
155 S. Seward Street
Juneau, Alaska 99801
tel. 907-586-5240
fax 907-586-5385

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Questions Posted to "Ask a Dispatcher"

Q. How does citizens arrest work in Juneau? I called JPD for assistance because I witnessed an assault but they did not arrest the person who did the assaulting and threatening.

Dear Juneau Resident,

Citizen's have the legal right to make arrests but officers are required to basically verify that the arrest is legitimate. If an 'arrest' by a citizen was not legal and an officer let the 'arrested' person get put in jail there would be heck to pay.

The reason officers have to verify the elements is that citizens sometimes don't have the legal training to know the exact elements of the crime that have to be met for an arrest. Harassment is an example. Lots of people complain of feeling harassed but the crime of harassment has very specific requirements like intent to harass or annoy, provocative to a reasonable person...lots of legal interpretations to be applied that probably shouldn't be applied by someone who hasn't read and regularly worked with that law and spent time consulting with senior officers and prosecutors.

It sounds like the officers had a different interpretation of what happened than you did. In JPD's experience sometimes victims refuse to say he or she was afraid and hurt out of loyalty to the suspect. Police then can't make an arrest unless there is enough evidence to show the person was actually afraid an/or in pain. Proving what someone thought or felt when the person denies it can be difficult even when the officer suspects the truth of the matter. Hopefully you gave your witness statement. If you want to know what else the officers were considering when the decision was made, you could call JPD and ask for the names of the responding officers or his or her supervisor. Then leave a message and ask for a phone call to discuss the case.


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