“APD, Channel One units, respond to an 11-5 in progress at 4501 Elmore Road. Complainant advises there is a bear charging their sliding glass door.”
That’s not an everyday call, but it’s not uncommon, either, when you’re a police officer in Anchorage, Alaska.
I first saw Anchorage in March of 1978. I was a few years out of the Army and was trying to get hired as an Alaska State Trooper. I was blown away that the ice on the parking lot was still 2 inches thick, there was 2 feet of snow on the ground, and that it was 16 degrees. It was offset by the fact that I was in Alaska.
Anchorage officers are cross-trained to handle many duties. Strong community relations are a key tactic in helping to keep the peace.
Anchorage is policed by the Anchorage Police Department (APD). The Municipality of Anchorage is the largest in Alaska. The population of nearly 300,000 souls is almost half the population of the state, but 90 percent of the state’s residents use Anchorage as their transportation, shopping and recreation hub. Lots of rural residents come to town to see the lights, party a little too hard and need police services. Police calls are made more difficult when the temperature is -30, with a 10 mph wind blowing off the inlet. Summers are fairly short and intense; with 24 hours of daylight, Alaskans tend to ignore sleep, knowing they can catch up in December. It can result in long, hard workdays for the APD.
Anchorage S.W.A.T. practices mobile air operations with a Black Hawk helicopter, which they use to deploy to remote areas faster.
Since Anchorage is a “distance-isolated city in a distance-isolated state,” the APD relies on excellent police-community relations to accomplish the mission. There is constant demand for demonstrations from schools, youth groups and job fairs, and vehicles and K-9s are special hits with school kids. In order to maintain close public ties, the APD uses outreach teams, school resource officers and a citizen police academy to improve communication and cooperation; a volunteer Search Team helps find lost folks and search for evidence. The APD is also moving toward assigning officers to the same areas in an effort to form stronger community ties.