Chris Tolley, currently special agent in charge of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's Alaska office, will be Anchorage's next police chief, replacing Mark Mew, who was appointed by then-Mayor Dan Sullivan in January 2010.
The change was announced Wednesday by Mayor Ethan Berkowitz during a morning news conference.
During Mew's tenure, the Anchorage Police Department struggled to fill its ranks, seeing officer numbers drop below 330 -- about 21 percent fewer than the department wanted. Recruitment was also a problem as APD struggled to find enough people who could make it through the department's background check and interview process.
The dwindling number of officers was a major issue in the 2015 mayoral election campaign, with both Berkowitz and his runoff opponent, Assembly member Amy Demboski, saying APD staffing was among the city's most pressing problems.
In appointing Tolley to replace Mew, Berkowitz said he appreciated Tolley's experience inside and outside of Alaska.
"Because he (Tolley) is not directly from the APD family, he will bring a fresh perspective, diversity on force, and desire to serve community in an even stronger way than has been possible in the past."
Tolley comes to the department after a decadeslong career as a police officer and a special agent in the DEA. According to his biography on the DEA website, Tolley worked in Hong Kong, China, Los Angeles and Hawaii before taking the Alaska post in January 2012.
Tolley said he is looking forward to implementing more community-based policing methods and wants to increase the Anchorage police force's diversity.
"Policing has changed so much since the days when I began, when you take control of a situation and act quickly," Tolley said. "Today it is so important to give everyone a voice. Everyone has a voice, and I want to take the time to listen to them and make sure our officers are trained to do just that."
Tolley's appointment was being well-received by the Anchorage Police Department Employees Association. APDEA president Gerard Asselin said that although he did not know Tolley, he was optimistic that the new chief would bring fresh energy and a commitment toward community policing to APD.
"We are looking forward to seeing a continuation of the Berkowitz administration desire to grow the police department," Asselin said. "I am more excited about, not so much the departure of Chief Mew, it's more the idea of addressing the staffing issues."
Berkowitz praised Mew's efforts in managing APD for five and a half years.
"I want to recognize that Chief Mew had done a great job with the circumstance he had been dealt and he deserves a lot of recognition for that."
Mew said he had been "exploring other possible opportunities" since before Berkowitz took office on July 1 but insisted Berkowitz did not ask him to to step down.
Mew said he would retire from APD on Oct. 12 and, after a short break, would begin work for the Bering Straits Native Corp.
Tolley will serve as deputy chief starting Sept. 1 and will take over as chief when Mew retires.