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Many saw police chief McCoy as a sign of hope for the Anchorage community

Published: Dec. 1, 2021 at 8:17 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The news of Anchorage Police Chief Ken McCoy’s retirement after 27 years with the police department rolled through communities across Anchorage on Tuesday night.

He announced that after less than a year on the job as Anchorage’s top cop, he will retire early next year.

“It was surprising news yesterday to see him retire, but I hope that whatever his next opportunity is that he is successful in, and he has certainly earned his retirement,” said Sgt. Jeremy Conkling, president of the Anchorage Police Department Employees Association.

Conkling said the employees association is waiting for information about who the next person will be to fill McCoy’s role.

Celeste Hodge Growden, who is president of the Alaska Black Caucus, said she was “deeply disturbed” by the announcement, trying to figure out how this happened in just a short time as chief.

“I’m so disappointed, because Ken was just the person that we needed to fit all of the dots and to fit all of the blanks and the bubbles,” she said. “He just, he was just a perfect match.”

McCoy addressed his retirement announcement earlier Wednesday at the Anchorage Assembly Public Safety Committee meeting.

“I am looking forward to spending more time with my family and exploring new opportunities and new ways for me to give back to this community that’s been so good to me,” he said.

He made history as being the first Black chief of police in the department’s 100-year history, with many seeing him as a sign of hope for the community. Conkling also noted the historical significance of McCoy’s appointment as chief.

Growden said Anchorage communities appreciated and valued McCoy because of the relationships he had with them. She said that’s a “big void” to fill going forward.

“I can’t express to you enough what hope means to people when they have had no hope,” Growden said. “When, you know, there have been decades of situations and mistreatment and just things that weren’t just or fair or right, and all of a sudden, you know, you have somebody now that is right there in the police department who is at the top, the chief, that works so well with community groups and communities, and who is loved by so many people.”

McCoy provided that hope, Growden said.

“And so without Ken McCoy, we’re going backwards,” she said.

When he was first appointed, McCoy said a goal of his was to increase transparency at the police department and to foster greater involvement and conversations with the community. In the months he has served in the position, he has overseen the department’s crafting of a policy for its new body-worn cameras. Approved by voters in April, the cameras are one example where the public has called on the department for more transparency.

McCoy isn’t leaving just yet — he will be the chief of police until Feb. 1, 2022.

“This is not an easy job, and sometimes, you know, it can be easier than other times,” Conkling said. “And I think Ken went through some difficult times, but he provided leadership and guidance to our department and we’re grateful for that.”

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