Out with Mew, in with the new: Anchorage hires a new police chief

A man with a long history in drug enforcement will take the reins as Anchorage’s new police chief. The city administration says he’ll be in step with a plan to develop a community policing model.

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Chris Tolley will take over as Anchorage Chief of Police when current chief Mark Mew steps down in mid October. Anchorage mayor Ethan Berkowitz made the announcement at city hall on Wednesday. Tolley has spent the past 28 years as a special agent for the federal Drug Enforcement Agency, the last four of them based in Anchorage. He will begin his stint as a city employee as acting Deputy Chief at APD on September first. Berkowitz said, by way of introducing Tolley, that the deputy job helps ensure a smooth transition.

“His experience, not just around the world and across the country, but here in Anchorage gives him the ability to understand what we do with APD and the ways that we can move forward. At the same time, because he is not directly from the APD family, he’s going to bring a fresh perspective, that I think will help us achieve a better police force moving ahead, able to achieve the kind of diversity within the force that we aspire to.”

From left to right: Anchorage mayor Ethan Berkowitz, incoming APD chief Chris Tolley, outgoing police chief Mark Mew. Photo: Ellen Lockyer/KSKA.
From left to right: Anchorage mayor Ethan Berkowitz, incoming APD chief Chris Tolley, outgoing police chief Mark Mew. Photo: Ellen Lockyer/KSKA.

Tolley began his law enforcement career as a beat cop in Baltimore 36 years ago. His experience since them exposed him to many aspects of police work. With DEA, he worked both in the US and abroad. Tolley says his background in partnering with domestic and foreign law enforcement will help the APD move in new directions.

“And crime has no boundaries. It is no longer confined to a single city. With the Internet, social media and global travel, law enforcement must extend to one another – local, state, federal and international. Our municipality faces many challenges.. the homeless, drug addiction and violence, all influenced from outside our jurisdiction.”

Tolley’s DEA experience took him to Hong Kong, Vietnam and to Hawaii, where he worked to eradicate marijuana. He has also worked as an undercover agent combating drug transportation, and has a background with the DEA’s Los Angeles office as a manager and personnel trainer.

Current APD chief, Mark Mew, will step down on October 12 to pursue new opportunities with the Bering Straits Native Corporation. Mew has high praise for Tolley

“I think this is a great choice for the next step for the Anchorage police department. I’ve worked with Chris for four years now on a lot of different projects and I know his skill level and his depth of character, and I think he’ll be an excellent choice to lead the Anchorage police department moving forward.”

Berkowitz thanked Mew for his five and a half years of service, saying that during Mew’s tenure, the department wrestled with a lack of staffing.

“I also want to take this occasion to thank Chief Mew for exemplary service under for what has been difficult and trying times.”

The city is working to prepare a budget that will train and put more officers on the street, Berkowitz said. The mayor and Tolley emphasized that a new philosophy of policing is evolving, as well. Tolley says community policing begins with dialogue with community figures.

“Policing’s changed very much since the days I began, when you just take control of a situation and take action swiftly. Today, it’s so important to give everyone a voice. And I want to take the time to listen to them, make sure our officers are trained to do just that.”

He says he wants the force to reflect the city’s diversity.