At the beginning of an Anchorage Assembly work session Friday on the proposed repeal of the “scofflaw” ordinance, Anchorage Police Chief Michael Kerle took a moment to express what many in the community have already seen:
“It is my opinion and the opinion of others in the police department that the Assembly and the Police Department have a very adversarial relationship right now,” he said.
Kerle said he had lost sleep the night before in anticipation of the meeting with the Assembly.
“It’s been confusing to me,” Kerle added. “I don’t understand why. I’m not a political figure, my department is not a political department. We have the same goals as the Assembly. I mean my two goals are the safety of the citizens of Anchorage and the safety of my department, those are my main goals.”
The Assembly, under the radical leadership of the past 18 months, has grown increasingly hostile to the police in general. The Assembly was not hostile when Ken McCoy was police chief of Anchorage, but then he was one of them — a hardline political operative who dressed left.
Kerle, a U.S. Marine veteran, has been with the department since joining APD as a recruit in the Academy in 1996. He became chief on Feb. 1, 2022.
“I look at the experience of my command staff alone … over 110 years of police experience. You might say we’re experts. We’ve been trained by the F.B.I., and every other other federal agency, the Southern Police Institute [Louisville, KY], which is a police training facility, Northwestern University,” he said, and added more.
“We know the law, we’re use-of-force experts, traffic experts, we go to a lot of training. We are the public safety experts,” Kerle said.
He reminded the Assembly that the police force also has very diverse backgrounds, and that while he had 11 years as a military commissioned officer, others have worked in the past as managers at Sears and Carrs, or were former police officers with other agencies.
“It seems as of late that we’ve been left out of a lot of the initial – and this is one of them — a lot of the initial drafting of these ordinances or changes that are proposed,” Kerle said.
In the case of the repeal of the scofflaw ordinance, it’s being offered by hard-left Assemblyman Felix Rivera, who is demonstrably more interested in gay and Black Lives Matter issues than actual community safety.
Kerl said that the Assembly members’ minds are already made up by the time he or his department has a chance to comment on the proposals that affect public safety.
When Public Safety is not involved, and then minds are made up, it’s hard for the department to have any reasonable input, he said.
Assemblywoman Meg Zaletel, who was chairing the meeting, moved into a defensive vocal fry as she responded, saying that maybe the Assembly would “look into greater collaboration.”
A vocal fry is a growl at the end of sentences that some younger women use to try to sound more authoritative.
The current scofflaw program in Anchorage allows police to impound a vehicle owned by someone with at least $1,000 in delinquent traffic fines.
At the June 6 Assembly meeting, Rivera introduced an ordinance to fully repeal what he calls the “regressive Scofflaw program. This program serves no true public safety purpose and is an effective tax on poverty.”
The work session, including Chief Kerle’s remarks, can be watched on YouTube at this link: