How One Alaska Town Was Left Without a Single Cop
Today, things are returning to normal in the small town of Sand Point, Alaska. But just a few weeks ago, a call to 911 may have gone completely unanswered.
For nearly a week in July, this town of 1,000 -- which grows by several hundred during the summer months as a result of the commercial fishing season -- had not a single police officer on its force. Not one.
The peculiar situation began on July 10 when one officer quit to follow his spouse to another state. That left Sand Point with just its chief, Roger Bacon, and two other officers. Those two happened to married to each other, however, and were forced to quit abruptly because of a family issue.
Normally, the city’s chief would hold down the fort, but he had been planning on a month-long vacation in Scotland and wasn’t about to give it up.
“There was sort of a mutual understanding that if he left to go for a month-long journey — leaving the community with no law enforcement — that if he came back, he would not be an employee of the city,” explained City Manager Andy Varner.
But off the chief went, leaving Sand Point without an officer in sight.
Fortunately, the town didn’t go all Lord of the Flies. A city PSA insisting that the community “will NOT be in a lawless state,” turned out to be more than just wishful thinking. Despite several days without a single cop, there were no major crimes committed and, since emergency services were still operating normally, no one was stranded without medical attention.
"Everyone was busy fishing,” said Austin Roof, general manager of the local public radio station, “which was great.”
Had there been a major incident, the Alaska State Troopers were there to help.
Sand Point has since tapped an interim chief and is now hiring new officers to fill the void. But police retention efforts will have to take priority to prevent a similar situation in the future. Next time, Sand Point might not be so lucky.