Less than a year into its existence, the state's new Pretrial Enforcement Division now has new leadership after its first director turned in her resignation at the beginning of the month.

PED is responsible for supervising some people charged with crimes as they're released before trial, in decisions which have drawn criticism when suspects commit new offenses during their time out of custody.

It's a brand-new venture for the state -- as well as Jason Whetsell, who's taken over as PED's director.  

"It's very exciting. I want to be part of something in a positive way, growing something that people are going to get used to, something that people want to see," Whetsell said. 

Whetsell spent 22 years in law enforcement, mainly with the Anchorage Police Department, then briefly retired after serving as the interim police chief in Cordova.

He then went back to work as an investigator for the Professional Conduct Unit at the state Department of Corrections, and is now settling into his new role overseeing PED.

Whetsell pointed out that the division doesn't control the legal framework under which it operates.

"The laws were put into place. We have no control right now of what's there, but we can make it work," Whetsell said. "Our mission is public safety. We have to take care of the public, and so we're gonna do what we can with what we've got."

Whetsell hasn't yet identified legislative changes he thinks could benefit the division, but said that as director he wants to create more training opportunities. 

"I want to get these guys more training. Officer safety is a thing for me," he said.

People charged with crimes should expect regular oversight from PED.

"We're going to be monitoring them, making sure that they're going to their court dates, making sure they're following what the judges said, so they can expect to be watched by us," Whetsell said.

The public can count on PED to do that job, Whetsell said, to protect people from new crimes.

"Public safety is our No. 1 priority, and that's what we're going to be doing, making sure the public is safe," Whetsell said. 

Former director Geri Fox is sticking around through Sept. 7 to help with the transition.

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