Klawock, on Prince of Wales Island, went about five months without a police chief — or even a police department. But that changed on Friday when Corey White was sworn in as the chief of police for the town of 800.
Corey White moved to Klawock from Polson, Montana, on a reservation. He said he was looking for a change.
“I’ve always been the person in every department that I’ve worked at that’s been a problem solver and helped to make it better and more improved from what it was when I got there,” White said. “And talking to a lot of people, it sounds like there was a lot of things that need to be done here — updating, enforcing laws and different things. And I like a big challenge. And so it kind of was right up my alley.”
White replaces Terry Stonecipher, Klawock’s longtime police chief who died in early January. Stonecipher had been the chief of police since 2005. Since he died, the town had been relying on Alaska State Troopers and village public safety officers for emergencies, or Craig’s police department about six miles away, if they were on hand.
White said he was thankful for the work that those agencies did to help Klawock since Stonecipher’s death.
White said one of his priorities will be combating the addictive drug fentanyl, a synthetic opioid around 50 times stronger than heroin that’s been linked to a recent spike in overdoses in Alaska. White noted it was a big problem in Montana, too, where he said it was an “everyday issue.”
“The biggest thing here that I’m hearing is just the presence of law enforcement and, and getting involved in investigating the drug issue, because if you are aware, the fentanyl across the United States is becoming out of hand, a major issue and people are losing their lives,” White said. “And so I want to really hammer that hard. And make the community safer and not having to worry as much about the drug issues here.”
White is looking forward to getting to know Klawock better. He said he wants residents to be open and honest.
“The biggest thing I can tell you is that I’m open, I’m honest,” White said. “And I appreciate everybody’s efforts and letting me know what’s going on. And together as a team and a community, we can accomplish a lot more than if they were to withhold information and not be willing to communicate with me. And together, we can accomplish more and make us safer together.”
Klawock’s mayor, Nick Nickerson, said White is a good fit for the community. He was sworn in on Friday. Nickerson showed White around Klawock for a couple of days before making an official offer. White accepted the job and officially moved to Klawock two weeks later.
“He understands small-town community,” Nickerson said. “He understands educating the community and utilizing the resources that are available in our community and on Prince of Wales Island, so the community is very excited to have him.”
But Klawock’s police department is still critically understaffed. Nickerson said progress is being made to hire more officers — a couple of applications have been reviewed, with at least one likely hire in the mix.
“And as of last week, we did receive two more applications and those will go up to the State Safety Council for approval,” the mayor said.
Nickerson said the department can employ four officers.
Raegan Miller is a Report for America corps member for KRBD. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one. Please consider making a tax-deductible contribution at KRBD.org/donate.