Anchorage’s incoming mayor has named a new police chief

A white man in a police uniform at a wooden desk
Deputy Chief Sean Case at his office at the Anchorage Police Department’s downtown headquarters in 2022. (Lex Treinen/Alaska Public Media)

Incoming Anchorage Mayor Suzanne LaFrance will not retain Anchorage Police Chief Bianca Cross. 

Instead, LaFrance’s team announced Tuesday that current Deputy Chief Sean Case will take over under her administration beginning July 1. 

Case said he didn’t hesitate to accept the job. 

“It’s a pretty big honor to, you know, be raised here in Anchorage and then be an officer at APD for over 23 years,” he said. “I love Anchorage, it’s my community. I love the police department.” 

In a statement, LaFrance said Anchorage needs a chief with extensive APD leadership experience.

“Deputy Chief Case not only brings that experience, but also deep understanding of policing policies that will make all Anchorage residents safer,” she said.

Case and Cross have parallels in their resumes and career trajectories, both with about 25 years of experience in law enforcement. However, Case had served as a captain for six years before becoming deputy chief in 2022. Cross had been a captain of APD’s detective division for less than a year when Mayor Dave Bronson picked her to be police chief in April, shortly before he lost his reelection bid to LaFrance.

Cross was the first woman to hold the job in the city’s history.

a woman talks into a mic
Bianca Cross talks with reporters about becoming the new chief of the Anchorage Police Department in April. Then-Chief Michael Kerle, left, retired at the end of the month. (Wesley Early/Alaska Public Media)

LaFrance said she met with Cross several times for the transition. She expressed gratitude for Cross’s years of exemplary police work. Transition team spokesperson Ira Slomski-Pritz said LaFrance hopes to see Cross continue in a leadership role in the department, and that conversation is ongoing. 

Cross, through a police spokesperson, declined an interview request. 

As police chief, Case said his top priorities include issues related to homelessness and violent crime. But he also said he has a different policing style, and wants to shift the department’s culture. 

“I believe that policing is about creating opportunities to connect with the community, and everything kind of falls from there,” he said. “You’re going to see a different interaction with the media. You’re going to see a different social media presence. You’re going to see a higher level of communication, and not just, you know, from me as the chief.” 

In her statement, LaFrance said her team had a lot of work to do from restaffing the police department “to addressing violent crime and deepening community trust.” 

“That work includes a responsibility to establish much deeper partnerships with the BIPOC community, to listen, and to take actions that demonstrate a commitment to safety, healing, and justice,” she said.

LaFrance’s statement highlights Case’s work at APD on criminal and mental health diversion programs, starting a team that pairs social workers and police officers together to respond to residents in mental health crises, and recruitment and retention efforts. 

Cross was Bronson’s last prominent appointment. She replaced Michael Kerle, who retired. 

The Assembly put off confirming Cross as chief, saying they wanted to wait until LaFrance took office. 

Cross has faced criticism during her short tenure for her handling of four police shootings that left at least two people dead. She said she would not release body camera footage of the shootings until after investigations are complete, despite demands from family.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated how long Sean Case has been in law enforcement. Case has been with the Anchorage Police Department for 23 years, but also previously worked for the Los Angeles Police Department for two years.

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Jeremy Hsieh covers Anchorage with an emphasis on housing, homelessness, infrastructure and development. Reach him atjhsieh@alaskapublic.orgor 907-550-8428. Read more about Jeremyhere.

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