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WASILLA— 25 new Alaskan law enforcement officers received their badges during a graduation ceremony in Sitka Nov. 20.

“Public safety has been job number one for my administration since I took office, and these new Alaska State Troopers, Park Rangers, Police Officers, and Village Public Safety Officers will undoubtedly make our state a safer place to live, work, and raise a family,” Governor Mike Dunleavy said. “Thank you for stepping up to serve your community and state in law enforcement. You will soon see that Alaskans overwhelmingly support the great work that law enforcement does each and every day.”

Graduating recruits completed more than 1,000 hours of training over the course of 16 weeks of basic Alaska Law Enforcement Training to reach this milestone. Their training included intensive instruction in law enforcement-related topics, physical fitness, and numerous scenario-based exercises designed to prepare entry-level police officers and Troopers for successful careers in Alaska law enforcement.

“As a graduate from this very academy 38 years ago I know that the Alaska Law Enforcement Training Academy and its top-notch instructors produce the finest law enforcement officers in the nation,” Department of Public Safety Commissioner James Cockrell said. “Providing quality public safety in a state like Alaska is no easy task, but I know that these graduates have the heart and tenacity to accomplish this critical mission.”

4 out of the 25 graduates are being sent to serve in the Mat-Su Valley as Alaska State Troopers.

Alaska State Trooper B Detachment Deputy Commander, Daron Cooper the additional staffing comes at a time of great need and it’s greatly appreciated.

“We obviously from an agency standpoint love the fact that we’re getting new recruits in. It helps fill not only some voids in our overall agency but also helps fill some voids in the Valley,”

Cooper said that having four additional Troopers on their staff will certainly help their Valley patrols.

“Any of these numbers of new hires can be very, very valuable to us, particularly when our staffing continues to be an issue,” Cooper said. “It’s extremely helpful over the course of time to help some of the workload that’s going on with our current Troopers, and just making sure that we have the resources available to meet the demands of the Mat-Su with law enforcement.”

Cooper said they’re also hoping for an additional eight Troopers and will know more in the coming months.

“We’re crossing our fingers for that,” Cooper said.

Trooper recruitment is at an all-time low across the state. Cooper said that hits hard in the Valley with such a large population and overall area to cover. He said the department is faring well overall and they’re making the most of what they have.

“I’m hopeful that over time, we’ll be able to get our numbers up. To be realistic, with the numbers that we can bring on over at a time, it’s going to take us a little bit to fill all our vacancies. However, with the continued efforts with our recruitment unit recruiting and our Troopers who are actively out on the street recruiting folks, I’m hopeful that over the next several years we’ll be able to fill our ranks to make sure can deliver a public service that the public is expecting of us,” Cooper said.

Cooper said there are several recruitment efforts currently in place to encourage people to join, including a hiring bonus of $10,000 for making it through the academy and an additional $10,000 after the first year.

“We still encourage those who qualify and those who are interested in a career in law enforcement to work for the Alaska State Troopers. We offer a wide range of opportunities and diversity, and good pay and benefits,” Cooper said.

For more information about the Alaska State Troopers and how to apply, visit dps.alaska.gov/AST/Recruit/Home.

The ceremony was closed to the public, but those that are interested can watch a video recording on the Alaska State Troopers Facebook page.

Contact Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman reporter Jacob Mann at jacob.mann@frontiersman.com

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