How to Become a Police Officer in Alaska

Though a college degree is not necessary for a career as an Alaska police officer, police training can be supplemented by a two-year degree or four-year degree in sociology, accounting, or medical science. Degrees from offline or online colleges in sociology can help you understand the motivations and social factors that contribute to criminal behavior. An accounting degree can help you find efficient uses for departmental budgets as well as help you detect signs of fraud and other business crime. Finally, studying medical science can help you learn more about drugs and other controlled substances, improving your ability to identify signs of use in suspects. If you are interested in supplementing police work with a college education, this top schools list has information for you.

The training necessary to become a police officer in Alaska also provides twelve credit hours of college credit, so police training can help you get a college degree even if you do not ultimately pursue employment in law enforcement or criminal justice. Whether you pursue an associate’s degree or an MBA, a college education can help you succeed as a police officer, and in some cases can accelerate your advancement through the ranks in a police department. You can also learn valuable logical reasoning skills that can improve your ability to crack cases and deal with suspects.

Basic Information on Police Officers in Alaska

In 2009 Alaska had 608 state police employees, a much smaller police force than most other states. Alaska peace officer and patrol officer positions are expected to grow at around 50 job openings per year, with the field achieving net growth of approximately 11% through 2020. If you are interested in becoming a cop in Alaska, you must meet Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) requirements, which are coordinated by the Alaska Police Standards Council (APSC), but some police organizations set more rigorous standards. Becoming a police officer in Anchorage, for example, requires you to have a cleaner record than the minimum mandated by the APSC, and other organizations can encourage or require you to have a college education from an accredited university.

Training to become a police officer in Alaska starts after you have been hired by a police organization, and uses a manual for basic police training and other academy training requirements set by individual police agencies. There is only one POST basic training academy in Alaska, so you will always receive education from this academy if you must complete any training as part of your path to becoming an Alaska peace officer. Since training is completed after you have already been hired, which is different than in most states, you can be reasonably sure that you will work as an officer once you graduate.

Some organizations have significant variations in their requirements for police officer hiring in Alaska, depending on the needs or standards of the community. The Anchorage Police Department and the Alaska State Troopers, for example, set higher standards for background checks for people who want to become police officers under their employment, adding further disqualifying conditions such as multiple misdemeanors and higher standards regarding the use of marijuana than those set by the APSC. To find out more about the specifics of hiring in a particular organization, contact a recruiter from that police agency.

What are the POST Minimum Standards to Become a Cop in Alaska?

  • You must be a U.S. citizen or resident alien who has demonstrated intent to become a citizen.
  • You must be at least 21 years of age at the time of employment by a police organization.
  • You must have a clean background check (with no felonies or misdemeanor crimes of dishonesty, domestic violence, moral turpitude, or serious physical injury, multiple DWI offenses, or drug offenses).
  • You must be mentally and emotionally capable of performing essential police functions.
  • You must have your physical capability to perform the job certified by a licensed physician on a medical form.
  • You must submit fingerprint cards to the Department of Public Safety.
  • You must submit to a psychiatric evaluation.
  • You must complete field training after being hired by a police organization.

What Could Disqualify Me from Becoming an Alaska Cop?

Becoming a police officer in Alaska can be difficult for those who have been convicted of crimes, especially crimes involving violence, dishonesty, or drug use. Drug crimes committed within the last ten years, as well as any felony or certain classes of misdemeanors, are an automatic disqualification for police officer applicants. Exceptions exist, however, such as those made for drug offenses committed before the applicant turned 21, so you should contact a recruiter for more specific information on your situation if you are worried about a potential disqualification.

Police Training Academies in Alaska

The standards for becoming a cop in Alaska are set by the Alaska Police Standards Council (APSC), which is part of the Department of Public Safety. It was created to enforce standards for peace officers set by Alaska statutes and is funded by the state of Alaska. More than 50 police agencies participate in the program, including the Alaska State Troopers and the Anchorage Police Department. Police hiring requirements in Alaska must meet at least the minimum requirements set by the APSC for police training, but you may have to meet additional police training requirements set by specific agencies for certain careers.

Police organizations can deviate from these training, education, and background requirements when they hire police officers, provided they are not lower than the minimum requirements. The Alaska State Troopers, for example, require police training for patrol and peace officers at police training academies in addition to the field training required by the state of Alaska, and also have higher standards regarding background checks. Police training courses in Alaska help you meet the requirements of the job and should be considered when applying for a job as a peace officer.

Anyone can apply to train at the police academy in Alaska, but people who do not meet the state’s police requirements are likely to be denied entry. There is no out-of-pocket cost for academy attendance if you are hired by the Alaska State Troopers. Once you complete the training program, you are certified for police careers. You are, however, required to complete some basic fitness and aptitude tests before entering the academy.

Education at the Department of Public Safety Academy focuses on building the skills necessary for police work. Students learn how to operate equipment, implement defensive tactics, and use technology in police settings through courses on topics such as:

  • Firearm training
  • Motor vehicle operation
  • Computer literacy
  • Federal and state law
  • Written communication

Law Enforcement Jobs and Salary in Alaska

Alaska law enforcement jobs numbered 1,160 in 2011, according to data collected by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The average police officer salary in Alaska was $67,400, comparable to the District of Columbia, which paid only $250 more per year to a typical peace officer. The District of Columbia has a much higher crime rate than Alaska, however, with more than twice as many violent crimes per 100,000 people per year in 2009 and almost twice as many property crimes per 100,000 people in that same year.

Police organizations in Alaska can be structured in multiple ways. The Anchorage Police Department assigns responsibilities to its officers, who have graduated from POST certified training courses in Alaska, according to their rank. In order of responsibility from highest to lowest, these ranks include:

  • Chiefs of Police – Chiefs of police oversee the activities of all police organizations. Members of Public Affairs and Internal Affairs report directly to the chief, as do the Deputy Chief and the Chief of Staff.
  • Deputy Chiefs – Deputy chiefs deal with hiring, training, and data management within the police organization. The captains of specific fields within the department, such as detective work and crime suppression, also report directly to the chief.
  • Captains – Captains manage the day-to-day operations of a specific division within the department, such as the Detective Division or Crime Suppression Division. They perform administrative tasks and set goals.
  • Lieutenants – Lieutenants supervise sections within divisions, such as crimes against persons or property crimes. They perform both administrative and daily policing functions.
  • Sergeants – Sergeants head up specific divisions within sections, such as crimes against children or property crimes. They oversee the daily activities of detectives and officers.
  • Detectives and Officers – Detectives and officers perform investigative and patrol duties under the direction of more experienced officers. They are responsible for traffic stops, investigations, home entries, and other basic policing duties.