New chief takes reins at Anchorage Police Department

Chris Tolley, a former Alaska Drug Enforcement Administration supervisor, is officially Anchorage's newest police chief.

Anchorage Superior Court Judge Eric Aarseth swore Tolley in as the chief of Anchorage Police Department at a changing of the chiefs ceremony Monday. Tolley's official first day on the job is Tuesday.

First to speak at the ceremony outside APD headquarters on Elmore Road, Mayor Ethan Berkowitz thanked outgoing chief Mark Mew for his years of service. Mew served "not always under easy circumstances, but always with dignity and the interest of his troops at heart," Berkowitz said.

The mayor unveiled a 2016 budget proposal in early October that contained a $5 million increase in public safety spending, saying increasing the number of police and firefighters is a priority for his administration. Berkowitz pledged to fund three police academies next year, a development both the incoming and outgoing APD chiefs said they find encouraging but admit recruiting and retaining officers will be challenging.

"I want to acknowledge that chief Tolley will carry a heavy burden," Berkowitz said. "He's got that responsibility to move this department forward, to make sure our community can be safe and strong going into the future, and I have every confidence that he'll be able to achieve those goals with the same kind of achievement that Mew has had."

Speaking briefly, Mew said he's had many conversations in the past week about his tenure at the police department. Monday's ceremony was about looking forward, he said.

"We have a damn fine department," Mew said. "This job is the great thing it is because of the people we have working here."


Mew said the community is fortunate to have APD, given the tumultuous situations at other law enforcement agencies elsewhere in the U.S.

Tolley also kept his comments to a minimum, thanking the mayor for the opportunity to oversee the department. He announced two changes of command at the department, in the form of two new deputy chiefs: Kenneth Spadafora will oversee the administrative division while Garry Gilliam will do the same for operations.

Anchorage District Attorney Clint Campion said after the ceremony the relationship between his office and the police department shouldn't change much. More officers in the future could mean more criminal cases to prosecute, but the district attorneys may play a hand in a more proactive approach to policing, he said.

Jerzy Shedlock

Jerzy Shedlock is a former reporter for Alaska Dispatch News. He left the ADN in 2017.