The Kodiak Police Department has seen an increase in applicants following the airing of the reality TV show “Alaska PD.”
Despite the departure of two police officers featured on the television program, which airs on A&E network, police said the show has been beneficial for recruitment.
“The show generated a lot of interest,” said Lt. Francis de la Fuente, a spokesperson for the Kodiak Police Department. Officer Jamie Ramos left the department in February, and Officer Adam Gebert left in December to work as a police officer in Wasilla, said de la Fuente.
Although the department would not provide details surrounding Ramos’ departure, de la Fuente said it was “a mutual understanding kind of deal.”
“Alaska PD” highlights police work in Kodiak, Fairbanks, Kotsebue and Petersburg, showing the unique challenges of working in the “last frontier.” The Kodiak episodes follow police officers as they patrol the city, fighting off bears and uncovering drug activity.
Kodiak’s police department has recently received 23 job applications from Alaska, Florida and other states, de la Fuente said.
He said that many of the applicants referenced the police work seen on the show, adding that they have been attracted to Kodiak’s beauty, community and the type of work available for police living in a small town.
However, he noted that the high number of applicants for the four open positions could decrease as soon as individuals realize Kodiak’s high cost of living.
De la Fuente said the city is working on a plan for recruitment that will be “outside of the box” because, unlike other cities with more resources, Kodiak cannot offer expensive bonuses, travel stipends or moving costs.
According to de la Fuente, the chief of police and city manager are discussing new recruitment methods, but details of the plan have not yet been released.
Another officer who said he is happy with the show, despite initial reservations, is veteran officer Sgt. Michael Sortor.
He said he has “had a lot of feedback from a lot of longtime Kodiak residents” who have told him how great the show was and that it “made Kodiak look good.”
According to Sortor, the spike in interest in the police department is quite different than previous years.
“It is incredible because a year ago, we maybe had two people that asked about the department,” the sergeant said. “It’s definitely put (Kodiak) out there.”
Sortor said that although two officers have left the department, it is not as “detrimental to our mission” as in previous years because of the positive attention garnered by the show.
However, despite recent interest, retaining police officers will remain a challenge for the Kodiak Police Department to overcome.
“It’s really hard for people to make enough to get by with the rent,” Sortor said, adding that many officers, especially the younger recruits, are looking for a better work-life balance.
Sortor said he thinks the key to retaining officers is more than just a money issue — the community itself will have to be the main attraction.
“We have to look for the right fit. We are looking for those people who are looking to make a place for themselves in a small town,” Sortor said, adding that people won’t stay “if we are not investing in the community, if we're not making it a fun, lively environment.”