JUNEAU (AP) Julia Grimes was appointed to head the Alaska State Troopers Thursday, becoming the first woman ''top cop'' in the state's history.
Grimes, 46, has been with the Alaska State Troopers since 1983. Her career has included a stint as a flying officer in Bush Alaska and time working in high-profile drug interdiction. She's been an investigator in the department's major crimes unit and a K-9 dog handler.
Grimes says part of her job will be to return the Alaska State Troopers to ''our core mission of public safety in rural Alaska as well as in the urban areas.''
''Julia represents, I think, the finest in the Alaska (State) Troopers,'' said Gov. Frank Murkowski, who announced the appointment on Thursday. ''We're certainly impressed with the strong leadership ability that she's evidenced in her career.''
Grimes begins her duties as director of the Division of Alaska State Troopers immediately, overseeing more than 250 troopers and about 77 village public safety officers.
She takes over a department stretched thin by budget cuts and a shortage of officers, while crimes related to drugs and alcohol have increased.
A post-election transition team assembled by Murkowski to study the Department of Public Safety noted morale was low within the Alaska State Troopers and suggested sweeping changes were needed in the department.
One step currently being considered is a reorganization that merges regular troopers and fish and wildlife protection officers.
Public Safety Commissioner Bill Tandeske outlined the proposal in March, saying it might involve using ''brown shirt'' wildlife officers for additional law enforcement duties during downtime between hunting and fishing seasons.
The proposed merger prompted the chief of the fish and wildlife protection division to retire earlier this month. Joel Hard said the change could shortchange wildlife protection and he could not support it.
Tandeske said no action would be taken on the merger until a comprehensive review of the department is completed this summer. In a letter to the governor, Grimes noted that leaders of the department would need to overcome ''a major cultural change'' to combine the two divisions.
''In a time where we anticipate rethinking everything we do and why we do it, it takes individuals such as this to help us get there,'' Tandeske said.
Grimes joined the troopers in January 1983 and spent several years as a drug investigator and as a member of the Anchorage metropolitan drug unit. Grimes worked as an undercover officer and also conducted aerial surveillance for drug investigations.
She was the first female trooper to be certified as a state pilot and spent six years as a trooper pilot in Bristol Bay.
Grimes also worked as an investigator in the major crimes unit, which handles crimes such as murder, rape and sexual abuse of children.
Grimes spent three years as a canine handler. During that time, she earned a Meritorious Service Award for work on a Bethel drug investigation.
She has also supervised prisoner transport and worked on serving warrants, tracking fugitives and extradition.
Most recently, Grimes served as division staff supervisor at Alaska State Troopers headquarters in Anchorage. She was promoted to captain earlier this month when she got that job. As head of the troopers, she becomes a colonel.
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