First Alaska Native woman trooper, now retired, reflects on two decades in law enforcement

A man and woman pose for a portrait together in their blue Alaska State Troopers dress uniforms.
Anne Sears, right, and husband Jay, who is also a retired Alaska State Trooper (Curtis Worland/Alaska State Troopers)

The very first Alaska Native woman to serve as an Alaska State Trooper has retired.

Anne Sears’ 22-year career in law enforcement took her all over the state — from Southeast, to Southcentral, the Interior and, eventually, back to Northwest Alaska, where she’s from. And people all over the world saw her on the reality TV show, “Alaska State Troopers”, along with her husband, Jay, who was also a trooper.

Sears says she’s proud to have been a trooper, especially with 15 years in rural Alaska. As for whether she was treated any differently as an Alaska Native woman trooper, Sears says, it was more about where she’s from than who she is.

Listen here:

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The following transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.

Anne Sears: You know, when we are responding to complaints or calls, or anything, all people see is the uniform. For the most part, they see a uniform, they don’t see me necessarily. You know, being a woman in law enforcement, you have to approach it a lot differently. I mean, I’m not nearly as strong as my husband or any of my male counterparts. So I had to use my words, I had to use communication, that was my strongest point. But I never felt like I was treated differently, certainly not by my coworkers. Now, on the flip side, if I was just in the village, and just bebopping around, doing whatever and not responding to calls, there were a number of folks in the villages that, I don’t know if they recognized that I was, you know, different or whatever, but people would ask me where I was from. They thought it was cool that I was from Nome. I had that happen a lot when I was out working.

Casey Grove: What do you think is the significance of being the first Alaska Native woman trooper?

AS: I think it’s amazing. I didn’t even realize until 2019 that I was. I mean, well, I didn’t confirm it, I should say. I’ve always had this little question in the back of my head, thinking, you know, ’cause I couldn’t think of another Alaskan Native female that had been hired. And there’s not a whole lot, either. I mean, we don’t have very high numbers. And that’s typical across the country for law enforcement. I don’t want to be the last. I just would like to be the first of many more to come. But law enforcement itself is not typically something that females consider, you know. I didn’t grow up thinking I was going to be a firefighter or a police officer. I had parents that told me I could do whatever, even be president, but certainly I never thought I would get into law enforcement. And I did. You know, when I was in the village, and people would realize where I was from, they took some pride in that. And I hope that maybe some other little girls and boys from the village think they can do the same thing that I did.

CG: I have to ask you, what was it like to be on the “Alaska State Troopers” reality show?

AS: You know, it was a lot of fun to do. I mean, it was hard. It was hard sometimes, like at the end of a long day, kind of having to recap everything that we had just done and filmed. But it was a lot of fun to do. It was a lot of fun to share my little corner of Alaska with a film crew and then, ultimately, to a wider audience. And I tell you what, that show opened a lot of doors for me just in the villages alone because people would, of course, recognize me, they’d want to take pictures with me. Even folks I was dealing with that I was having to arrest, eventually, after things, you know, settled down, we would talk about the show and seeing me on the show. It was an amazing thing to be a part of. And I’ve been recognized as far away as Puerto Rico. I was on a cruise through the Panama Canal, I took my dad. People recognized me on the cruise ship from all over the world.

CG: Worldwide recognition! So, how does it feel to be retired now?

AS: It feels amazing. My mother had warned me when I got my first job at 12 that I’d be working for 40 years. She was so mad that I had gotten a job at 12. But she was right. I worked for 43 years. You know, kind of coming up to my retirement date, it felt really strange just thinking that, I’m not going to be working after all this time. And now it feels like a relief. Like, I’m free. I can do whatever I want, whenever I want. I feel pretty amazing.

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Casey Grove is the host of Alaska News Nightly and a general assignment reporter at Alaska Public Media with an emphasis on crime and courts. Reach him at cgrove@alaskapublic.org.

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