The Alaska State Troopers have a new boss: Longtime trooper Hans Brinke is now Col. Brinke, the head of an organization he joined 26 years ago as a recruit.
Brinke said Tuesday, his first day on the new job, that he was receiving a lot of information.
“Drinking from a fire hose, swallowing what I can, and trying to hope for the best,” Brinke said.
Brinke has worked as a K9 cop and drug investigator, moved up the ranks to captain, and, most recently, was a detachment commander in Palmer.
There are at least three things Brinke already wants troopers to focus on as an organization: The state’s opioid epidemic — along with its many public safety impacts — as well as an up-tick in traffic fatalities in Alaska, and the recruitment and retention of more troopers.
Like many state agencies, the Department of Public Safety is coping with the state’s fiscal crisis.
“With less troopers on the street, we do have vacancies that are out there, so we have to be more creative and stretch our resources out a little bit further,” Brinke said. “Asking the guys to do more with less is something that you’re going to hear.”
In some cases, Brinke said, violent crimes like assault may need to be prioritized ahead of property crimes, such as burglary. Brinke said both types of crime can be common symptoms of opioid dealing and addiction.
Brinke said getting to the root of the problem and combating illegal opioids is a top priority for the troopers.
“The opioid epidemic is huge, and that’s not just the use of heroin, but it’s also prescription pills that have those narcotics in them as well, so right now, that’s at the top of my list,” Brinke said.
The effort includes public partnerships with groups outside of law enforcement, as well as training troopers to treat overdoses in the field.
Brinke takes over for Col. Jim Cockrell, a former Wildlife Trooper division director who has now retired from the troopers three times.