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The police in Alaska capital launch 2017 kindness campaign

  • In this Dec. 20, 2016 photo, Thunder Mountain High School Principal Dan Larson, left, poses for photos with Mitchell Henderson, one of the students of Juneau-Douglas High School that spent lunch hours handing out candy canes to students at Thunder Mountain High School in Juneau, Alaska. Students passed out candy canes as part of a kindness campaign, under the leadership of the Juneau Police Department that is officially the kick off for the New Year. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer)

    (Associated Press)

  • FILE – In this July 20, 2016 file photo, Juneau police officer Ken Colon grills hotdogs during a meeting sponsored by the department of the police to allow people to take a stand against violence and to celebrate the diversity within the community in Juneau, Alaska. After a year of deadly confrontations between police and citizens in the AMERICAN police in Alaska’s capital are the forefront of a campaign to convert and 2017 in a community-wide year of kindness. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer, File)

    (Associated Press)

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska – After a year of deadly confrontations between police and citizens in the AMERICAN police in Alaska’s capital are the forefront of a campaign to convert and 2017 in a community year of kindness.

Juneau police will kick-off the campaign with the public potlucks on new year’s eve and new year’s day to encourage the local population to commit daily acts of kindness and weekly to people outside their usual circles.

Groups, companies, government agencies and others also choose for an other week of the year for their employees to perform “kindness” peaks,” with correctional officers in the local prison to take the first week.

Ideas being considered are a visit to the local senior homes, distribution of care packages and paying for a stranger a meal.

The goal is to measure the impact of kindness in the area of crime, suicide, and emergency calls by the end of 2017, according to Lt Kris Sell, who originated the idea in a partnership with the global kindness advocate, Random Acts, and others.

“You can change the quality of life in a community and prove that you have done?” Sell said.

Jennifer Willis-Rivera, development manager for the non-profit Random Acts, knows of no similar efforts by the police or the city anywhere. She is planning to visit Juneau in January and again a year after that.

To her, the excitement will come in seeing the results after a whole year focused on kindness. “It is something that everyone talks about all the time, but usually we are really only focused on around the holidays, when there is a tragedy,” she said.

Sell said that the idea originated some months ago when they thought about what direction Juneau police could take in 2017.

She said “really hateful stuff” had just happened on the national level, including the ambush murders of five law enforcement officials in Dallas, who had been working to keep the peace at a protest over the fatal police shootings of black men in Minnesota and Louisiana.

Juneau has its own share of violence, including the nonfatal shooting of a man Dec. 3, months after the police first announced plans for the kindness project. No charges have been filed. The police have few details released, says the shooting is being investigated.

That was the first police-involved shooting since August 2007, when police fatally shot a sword wielding man. Juneau police shot at a fleeing suspect vehicle in 2008, but nobody was hit.

Some locals, including students, though the exercise of their kindness muscles.

Last week, special education students from Juneau-Douglas high School, travelled through the city to hand out candy canes at Thunder Mountain High School. A 17-year-old Thunder Mountain senior died in September after accidentally shooting himself.

Special education teacher Janette Gagnon said the students wanted to offer a number of cross-town support.

Thunder Mountain principal Dan Larson got one of the candy canes from student Mitchell Henderson, who wore a festive santa hat. Larson said, ” it is a difficult year for the school. “We need this,” he said of the holiday cheer spread by the visiting students.

“This is a good time of year for goose bumps,” he said.

At the Lemon Creek Correctional Center, corrections officers plan individual projects to carry out during the friendliness of the surge in the first week of the new year. An officer plans to make bags with snacks, bus tokens, and other items to give in the city.

Ernestine Hayes, a Juneau-based Tlingit author, said she had not heard of the kindness campaign, but praised Juneau police for the effort. Hayes, who was recently appointed as the 2017 state writer laureate, said as soon as she hears more about the campaign, they see a chance to officially take part.

“I think it is very good to be on the lookout for someone who you hand something to give, them something like: ‘Here’s a bus token,” — if we also remember that kindness can be a smile, a hello and a hug.” she said, “That will advance it even further.”

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Associated Press writer Becky Bohrer in Juneau, Alaska, contributed to this report.

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