Former Anchorage Assemblyman Paul Honeman hired in new police position

Paul Honeman, the former Anchorage Assemblyman and police lieutenant, has a new job at the Anchorage Police Department — but it doesn't involve a gun and a badge.

Honeman was hired by Anchorage Police Chief Chris Tolley this summer in an executive position to beef up security at police buildings and keep officers and police employees from being sidelined by injuries.

Honeman started work July 25. In a phone interview Thursday, Honeman said he's overseeing officer wellness and injury prevention programs with the aim of cutting costs associated with worker compensation claims. He said he's also reviewing security at police facilities, including ways to restrict public access to the police headquarters off Elmore Road.

"Primarily my focus has always been on looking outside the building and going to calls in the community," Honeman said. "In this particular role, I'm looking inward."  

Honeman served two terms on the Assembly before deciding not to run again this year. He retired from APD as a lieutenant in 2006, and most recently worked as a University of Alaska police officer.

Honeman, 55, said he planned to retire in June before he got the call from police officials offering him the job.     

City spokesperson Myer Hutchinson said officials have been discussing the new position for some time, and Honeman was seen as a "natural fit" following his retirement from the Assembly.

Honeman is being paid a salary of $105,402, with budgeted benefits of $55,074, according to executive compensation data provided by the city's employee relations office. Honeman said he's also drawing about $40,000 annually from the city's police and fire retirement pension.

A break-in at a city tire shop in May highlighted a need for the building security officer job, Hutchinson said, though Honeman is only in charge of the city's handful of police buildings at this point. After the May incident, the city changed the locks on the entire fleet of police vehicles.

Deputy Chief Garry Gilliam said Honeman will be in charge of making the department safer overall for employees.

"This is a day and age of terror, and we have to adapt to some of these challenges," Gilliam said.

On the building security side, Gilliam said, officials want more systems in place to limit public access to parts of headquarters. He and Honeman said there will likely be more vetting of visitors and efforts to escort contractors who enter the building for work.

"We've got an open campus out here," Honeman said. "That causes some concern, unfortunately, in the world we're living in today."

Honeman said he will also be managing programs to promote physical stretching and injury prevention among employees. About 8 percent of police employees were out with injuries in each of the past three years, Honeman said. He said he'd like to see that statistic curbed by several percentage points.

Managing exposure to chemicals or hazardous materials, like meth labs or marijuana growing operations, will also be part of the job, Honeman said.

Gilliam said Honeman's job has been recommended for years, including in a strategic plan ordered by former Mayor Mark Begich and completed in 2009.

Other city departments, such as the health and fire departments, already employ safety officers.

Gilliam also said Honeman's hiring fits into a larger restructuring of the police department that began after Chief Tolley started work last summer. People who are not sworn officers are being given more opportunities to advance in the department, Gilliam said.

Of 11 recent promotions, 8 were women to management positions that have been historically dominated by men, Gilliam said.

"(Honeman) is a minor part of this whole organization change right here," Gilliam said.