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After earning federal grant, Kotzebue may hire 10th police officer

Suzanna CaldwellAlaska Dispatch News
State of Alaska photo

The city of Kotzebue is the recipient of a $125,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice intended to help fund law enforcement positions across the nation.

The grant is part of Justice Department’s office of Community Oriented Policing Services, or COPS, which this year awarded more than $111 million to communities across the U.S. The grant, if the department chooses to accept it, will give the Kotzebue police department one more officer.

Currently, Kotzebue employs nine police officers, including the chief of police, to patrol a community of about 3,200.

Eric Swisher, captain of the Kotzebue Police Department, applied for the grant. He said the Kotzebue Police Chief Craig Moates will take the grant proposal to the city, seeking matching funds. Kotzebue will have to raise $102,000 over three years to receive the grant. Moates isn’t sure those funds will be available.

"Realistically, we applied for it," Moates said. "We have every intention of using it."

COPS grants are aimed at creating or saving approximately 800 positions a year. Most communities that received small grants are  similar in size to Kotzebue. Larger communities, like Los Angeles and Chicago, received millions of dollars.

COPS stipulates that all law-enforcement positions funded by the 2012 hiring program must be filled by recent military veterans who have served at least 180 days since Sept. 11, 2001.

Grantees for the program were selected based on fiscal need and local crime rates. An additional factor in the selection process was each agency's strategy to address specific problems such as increased homicide rates and gun violence.

Officers in Kotzebue were involved in a standoff Tuesday that required them to call in state troopers. An investigation into whether the suspect, Arvid Nelson, 50, killed himself in the incident, as the Kotzebue police report suggest, is ongoing. Two troopers were injured in the confrontation, one of whom was shot in the leg. That officer is now out of the hospital and continuing to heal.

Contact Suzanna Caldwell at suzanna(at)alaskadispatch.com

Correction:  A Kotzebue police department report on the standoff says that Nelson shot and killed himself and was not killed by Alaska State Trooper or police fire. 

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