(Anchorage) – Assigning more troopers to communities in Alaska is a goal of Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy and James Cockrell, the Commissioner of Public Safety. Seventeen new positions for State Troopers and 10 for Village Public Safety Officers are in Governor Dunleavy’s budget.
On FirstHand, the podcast, Commissioner Cockrell says the Governor’s budget proposes the single largest funding increase to Public Safety over Cockrell’s 30 years with the Department, some $24 million.
Hear more about the Department’s optimism and momentum from Alaska’s top law enforcement official on FirstHand, the podcast.
Commissioner Cockrell said the budget cuts and positions lost to the Department in 2015–under a different Administration–cause residual side effects on recruitment efforts for troopers. The Governor is building back the trooper levels, he said. “In 2015, we started out with authorized numbers of 328,” Cockrell said. “We lost 32 in two years by budget reductions. We’re still not up to 328, we’re at 319, the Governor’s budget will get us up.” He said the ultimate goal is 415 troopers, which he believes will adequately protect the state.
Reducing rates of domestic violence and sexual assault is a priority of the Governor and Commissioner Cockrell, he said. In December, Governor Dunleavy launched executive orders for a People First Initiative and put $7.3 million in his budget for this multi-agency approach to combating domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking, homelessness, and the crimes that lead to missing and murdered Indigenous persons. Commissioner Cockrell said he is bringing back retired Trooper Anne Sears to head that effort. Sears, an Alaska Native, worked for years in Western Alaska and will put a spotlight on it, he said.
Rebuilding the VPSO program is a Department and Governor priority, he said. Commissioner Cockrell said he brought back retired Col. Joel Hard to head up the Village Public Safety Officer operations. Hard will be working with the grantees to grow the VPSO program and identify any improvements it needs. Hard served as a Trooper for 22 years. His first day is today, Jan. 10.
On the podcast, Commissioner Cockrell discusses other firsts, including a new crime scene technician and a deputy fire marshal in the budget for Bethel.
Adding body-worn cameras for troopers and VPSOs is also a priority, he said.
He spoke of the proposed investment in the State’s older aircraft as an important part of a quicker response to smaller communities. “We operate 43 aircraft around this state. If we didn’t have aircraft it’d be like the Anchorage Police called Uber to go to a homicide on the hillside, so we totally depend on our aircraft,” Commissioner Cockrell said.
FirstHand is a podcast produced in the Office of Governor Mike Dunleavy by host Patty Sullivan.