Bronson announces picks for Anchorage fire, police chiefs

Anchorage mayor-elect Dave Bronson, center, listens as his incoming fire chief, Doug Schrage, speaks at a news conference Tuesday, June 8, 2021. Ken McCoy, Bronson’s appointee as police chief, is at right. (Nat Herz/Alaska Public Media)

Anchorage Acting Police Chief Kenneth McCoy will keep his job permanently under the next administration, Mayor-elect Dave Bronson announced at a news conference Tuesday.

McCoy, Anchorage’s first Black police chief, assumed the role of acting chief in April after his predecessor retired. 

As police chief, McCoy will oversee a department of 600 employees, including 426 officers, including police academy recruits.

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McCoy didn’t offer specifics on any new programs or initiatives that would start under the new administration. But he did say Tuesday that the department would be announcing new “crime strategies” at a later date. 

During his campaign, Bronson called for the police to do a better job of enforcing existing laws against homeless people who commit crimes. But at Tuesday’s news conference, Bronson, who ran under the slogan, “A New Direction,” said he wouldn’t micromanage the police or other city departments. 

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“Politically in this city, this is a new direction — trust me,” he said. “But at the end of the day, when it comes to running our departments, especially public safety departments, we’re here to pick the best.”

McCoy said his department would continue its efforts to diversify the police force, which is substantially whiter than the residents it serves. Bronson also said hiring a diverse force was a priority, but added that “if it’s not broken, we’re not going to fix it.”

“The chief will run this department as he sees fit. And he will hire who he thinks is best, and they will be the best when he’s done with it,” said Bronson. 

RELATED: Anchorage police, fire departments remain disproportionately white, despite diversity efforts

A white man with a short beard
Patrick Bergt pictured at an Anchorage office building on June 8, 2021. Bergt was appointed to be the next municipal attorney. (Nat Herz/Alaska Public Media)

Bronson also announced that he was appointing Doug Schrage as the city’s new fire chief. In addition to responding to fires and medical emergencies, Schrage’s department will oversee a recently-created mental health first response team.

Schrage previously worked for the Anchorage Fire Department for 25 years, rising to deputy chief. For the past decade, he was chief of University of Alaska Fairbanks’ fire department. 

AFD’s previous chief, Jodie Hettrick, announced earlier this year that she planned to retire in the summer.

Patrick Bergt will be Bronson’s municipal attorney. He’s worked most recently as a lawyer for the Alaska Oil and Gas Association, and previously was a prosecutor at the Anchorage District Attorney’s office. 

This story has been updated.