Anchorage police recruits get real-world training as mayor looks to increase force
Having more police officers on the streets is a major focus of Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz’s public safety plan. He wants to bring the Anchorage Municipality’s 360 police officers up to a force of 400.
There are currently 17 recruits going through the Anchorage Police Department’s police academy. Wednesday, they hit the streets for some first-hand practice with traffic stops. It’s one of their most common tasks, but also one of the riskiest, according to training officer Seth McMillan.
“We really don’t know what we’re approaching every time we stop a car,” he said, explaining that it takes a lot more multi-tasking than just pulling someone over and writing a ticket.
Alongside training officers and seasoned patrol officers, each recruit practiced stopping their academy classmates and issuing citations. They learned even the angle of their parked car is important to a successful stop.
“Something as simple as the way that we place our vehicle behind an offenders vehicle can have a big effect on safety,” McMillan said.
Eventually, the training scenarios will get more stressful. They’ll practice at night using flashlights, simulate a foot chase, and even practice reacting to a violent driver shooting at them.
About 40 percent of the police academy is spent outside the classroom, giving recruits real-life experience.
The mayor has requested APD hold three police academies in 2016.
McMillan said the challenge that comes along with a rapidly growing department is finding the resources and manpower to make the practical training happen.
“They’re going to be our coworkers, they’re going to be our peers, our friends, they’re the future leadership of the department,” he said. “So this is really where it all begins. It’s taxing on resources, but critically important for the future.”
They’ve also tried lateral recruiting, bringing in officers from other departments. A public information officer for the department said they only got a few recruits that way, so they’re not sure yet if they’ll hold a special academy for lateral recruits.
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