Nestled at the base of the Chugach Mountains along the coast of the Cook Inlet, Anchorage is a city of modern convenience and prehistoric beauty. Located in south central Alaska, Anchorage rests geographically as far north as Helsinki, Finland and as far west as Honolulu, Hawaii. Six mountain ranges can be seen from Anchorage. 200 recognized mountains, 60 glaciers and 30 lakes and ponds are within 50 miles of this city, which boasts 42% of the total population of Alaska.
Anchorage covers approximately 2000 square miles and includes both land and water. The average temperature in January ranges from eight to 21 degrees Fahrenheit. In July, it can range from 51 to 65 degrees. During the summer solstice, Anchorage has 24 hours of functional daylight, while during the winter solstice Anchorage sees 5 hours of daylight. Annual snowfall is 69 inches and precipitation is 15.9 inches. Tasked with protecting and serving the 282,813 people living in this diverse land (94 languages are spoken in the Anchorage school district) is the Anchorage Police Department.
Anchorage PD has 392 sworn officers, but continues to expand. After the May 27th Academy the number of officers will stand at 412. The officers are supported by 185 civilian personnel.
Training and Scheduling
The Anchorage Police Academy is 22 weeks long. 11 hours per day, Monday through Thursday. Cadets are trained using the Adult Learning Model as opposed to the old basic training style. Officers in the academy earn full pay, starting at $27.02 per hour. Lateral officers can expect to earn $28.45 per hour. A substantial pay raise is anticipated in 2009.
Once an officer hits the street, they will work a ten-hour shift, four days a week. With three days off, officers can relax and enjoy all Anchorage has to offer. Shift bids are conducted every four months and are based strictly on seniority. Second shift officers get a 3% shift differential and third shift receives a 6% differential. Tuition and books are compensated without a cap and officers with an associate's degree receive a 4% pay increase. A bachelor's degree nets an officer an additional 8%. Officers receive 5 weeks of annual leave, 11 paid holidays and three hours of minimum pay for court call-ins. If called back, they receive a minimum of four hours.
Officers carry the Glock 21 and the 12 gauge shotgun. There is a rifle program, so if an officer owns one, he can qualify with it and then carry it as well. The department also uses non-lethal weapons, including the TASER and bean bag shotgun.
An added bonus to new officers is they do not hit the streets alone. As part of the department's sponsorship program, a volunteer sponsor hosts new hires. They act as a mentor, making phone and e-mail contact with them, answering any questions they or their families might have about the department. They conduct tours of the agency so they can meet other employees and assist them with acclimating to the department and community. This sponsorship continues until both people develop a friendship or the new officer is incorporated into the community. Officers are also oriented at the municipal level and introduced to the support staff and command group.
Anchorage receives around 700,000 calls per year. Dispatchers field the calls, with police dispatchers handling the law enforcement calls and fire dispatchers handling their own. 9-1-1 and police dispatch work upstairs at police headquarters. Of these 700,000 calls, around 250,000 become calls for service.
Plenty of off-duty work is available to Anchorage officers. The work is managed at the police department and only an officer can do it. It is assigned to the department by union rules and is paid as city overtime. There is no subcontracting allowed.
A variety of patrol opportunities exist, including bike patrol, K-9 and motorcycle units. A snowmobile patrol is also offered. Used on special occasions, snowmobile officers patrol the 125 miles of trails inside Anchorage, including parks and remote areas. 20-30 officers are qualified for these patrols. A unique opportunity for this unit is patrolling the start-up of the annual Iditarod dog sled race.
Although residents of Anchorage are great people, not all of them would make a great police officer. Because of this, the department looks outside Alaskan borders for new officers. Within the last year and a half, recruiters have traveled to Montana, Idaho, Utah, and Michigan. Las Vegas is also a popular place to meet with potential recruits. Between May 8th and 20th, recruitment efforts were made in Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin. A quick look on the Anchorage PD web site shows where and when an opportunity to meet with a recruiter is available.
Along with new officers, lateral officers are encouraged to apply. A condensed eight-week lateral program is offered, including indoctrination into the Anchorage Police Department and community.
According to Sgt. Mike Couturier, a 12-year veteran, Anchorage is a great place to work. He said many of their new recruits come from employee referrals. He also says Anchorage is a great place to live. "The environment we work in and our off-duty options are exceptional," he says. "Whether you're into fine arts or outdoorsy, you don't have to travel far to be in the middle of nowhere or to be at the opera or a national chain restaurant." He also explains Anchorage is the biggest and best compensated and trained department in the state.
The scenery in Anchorage is breathtaking and the people are friendly. The Anchorage Police Department is a progressive department looking to the future. Their Major Crimes Response Team has been used as a model for other departments throughout the United States. Many reports can be handled on-line, freeing officers to accomplish other tasks including interacting with the community. Along with the out-of-state recruiting efforts, testing is conducted on a quarterly basis on the first Saturday of January, April, July and October. Anyone looking to live in one of the most beautiful places in the world and begin a career with great benefits and ample opportunity for diversity and growth will find the Anchorage Police Department a glorious fit. Couturier concludes, "It's just like NYPD Blue–only happier."