A group of 14 retired Public Safety commissioners, deputy commissioners, and other retired officers are concerned that morale among Alaska State Troopers is alarmingly low.
They’re so concerned that they’ve sent a letter about it to Gov. Bill Walker saying morale is at an all-time low. And they should know: Combined, they represent over 160 years of public safety experience.
The men copied the letter to the governor’s Chief of Staff Scott Kendall and the Director of the Office of Management and Budget Pat Pitney, as well as Darwin Peterson, the governor’s legislative director.
Three weeks later, and they’ve received no response. Only the sound of crickets.
The letter, sent to Must Read Alaska this morning, was respectful: “As veterans with decades of experience, we’re familiar with the budget process, ebb and flow of the State’s economy, and public attitude when it comes to comprehensive, effective law enforcement. What we are finding with family, neighbors, friends and the general public is a confusion and questioning why DPS and AST personnel are either stagnate in growth, or steadily in decline.
“Recall in your defeat of incumbent Governor Parnell, a core message you promoted was determination to fiercely protect the DPS budget while expanding statewide coverage and enhancing State Trooper hire and retention. Unfortunately, that has not happened. The public, whether or not they support your current fiscal plan and new tax recommendations, are nearly uniform in support of more Troopers.”
The letter states that “morale is at an all-time low. Low morale affects service, competence and continues to permeate into detachments regionally, at a systemic degree.”
The retired law enforcement leaders request that the governor hire more Alaska State Troopers, but that he also publicly show his support for the men and women in the Department of Public Safety.
The letter is signed by eight former commissioners — Joe Masters, Bill Tandeske, Ron Otte, Gary Folger, Richard Burton, Arthur English, Del Smith, and Pat Wellington.
Other signatories include retired Deputy Commissioners John Glass and James Vaden; Col. Joel Hard, Col. John Murphy, Scott Campbell, director of the North Slope Borough, and Chief Tom Clemons of the Seward Police Department. Retired Col. Tom Anderson, director of the Fraternal Order of Alaska State Troopers, also signed the letter.
Col. Anderson said they would only contact the governor if something was really wrong. Normally, Anderson spends his days supporting the efforts of the Fraternal Order of Alaska State Troopers, the Alaska Peace Officers Association, and the Alaska Chiefs of Police Association.
“It puts us in a bad spot because we don’t want to criticize. But a lot of the senior people in the department are on the verge of retiring, and the Troopers are losing good people. The issue of morale is more than just about the budget.”
Coincidentally, Gov. Walker announced today that President Donald Trump has appointed him to the 10-member Council of Governors, which focuses on military issues and defense spending.
“My administration’s top priority is to build a safer Alaska,” Governor Walker said in an ironic press release. “I am honored to accept this appointment. As the only independent governor in the nation, I intend to bring Alaska’s unique and important perspective to the issues that face our state and our nation. Given our strategic geographic location, it is crucial that our state participate in national defense conversations. This appointment will allow me to share Alaska’s story in a new way with the Trump Administration and the nation.”
But while national security is always a priority, it’s never been stated by this governor to be his top priority — until today.
The past commissioners of Public Safety are, it appears, trying to engage him on public safety where it counts most for Alaskans — at the State Trooper level.