ANCHORAGE — The gray hair of Kevin Fryslie stood out last week in a class of Anchorage Police Department recruits — mostly young men with dark crew cuts and short, gelled hair.
Fryslie, a 57-year-old retired FBI agent, is among 29 recruits training to be Anchorage police officers. Despite being forced out of “the Bureau” because of mandatory retirement rules, Fryslie says he isn’t done working yet.
“For me, right now, I’m not ready to retire. And I want to do something meaningful,” Fryslie said. “I think it’s a great way to provide a public service. You’re protecting others who aren’t able to protect themselves. I think it’s a very noble calling.”
Being a regular patrol officer is something Fryslie hasn’t done since the early 1980s in San Jose, Calif., before he applied to work for the FBI, “almost on a lark,” he said. He ended his time with the FBI in December 2010 as the agency’s special agent in charge of Alaska.
Fryslie is part of the police department’s first academy since 2008. He and the other recruits — 27 men, two women — will receive six months of instruction and testing before heading out for 14 weeks of training in the field with another officer. If they don’t fail tests or drop out along the way, they’ll become full-fledged officers, chasing down robbery suspects and busting drunk drivers on Anchorage’s streets.
And even after more than three decades with the FBI that included investigating the Iran-Contra affair, the Jonathan Jay Pollard espionage case, and the high-profile kidnapping of teenager Elizabeth Smart in Utah, Fryslie said he doesn’t consider it a step down.
“I think people get out of a job what they put into it,” he said. “If you have a lot of pride in what you do, no matter what you do, you should be proud of your occupation and yourself. I think that’s important.”
The next oldest recruit in the academy is 10 years younger than Fryslie. Most of the would-be officers are less than half his age, many just out of college or the military. But none of that shakes Fryslie’s confidence, he said. The oldest guy in class can already take pride in at least one thing: He made it in.
The police department typically hires only about 30 recruits from the 1,200 or so applicants they get, said Sgt. Michael Jensen, who is heading the academy this year for the first time.
The initial process of weeding out applicants includes a background check, tests for reading comprehension and physical agility, among other tests, followed by a psychological exam, Jensen said.
Then, in sixth months of instruction, “we spoon-feed them everything they need to know,” Jensen said.
That includes criminal law and department policies, how to talk on their radios and drive their patrol cars — at the same time, in some tests — and how to fire their department-issued handguns, Jensen said. Physical training is also part of the rigorous testing that takes place, he said.
“There’s built in more and more stress as the academy gets going, all the way through the end,” Jensen said. “Basically, we take ‘em to a point where it’s too much, and then we come back a little bit.”
As the academy progresses, two or three recruits might decide that a career in law enforcement isn’t for them, Jensen said. It’s still early in the process — the recruits just finished their second week, and all 29 remain — but Jensen said he has no reason to think Fryslie won’t make it.
“I don’t have any apprehension that he can’t do this job. He’s got a good attitude, and I think he’s going to do well,” Jensen said.
Fryslie seems to be fitting in, even with the more physical parts of the academy. Case in point: Fryslie held his own in a modified boxing match with another recruit, Jensen said.
The recruits did cardiovascular exercise for about a minute, paired up, and fought each other from their knees to simulate apprehending a suspect, Jensen said.
Fryslie boxed Robert Block, who looked to be in his mid-20s.
“He’s deceptive,” Block said. “I don’t want to just say you don’t expect somebody his age to be physically, that fit. But he got some good punches in. I hope I got him back.”
Fryslie said he has a good heart — that’ll come in when the recruits practice using Tasers on each other — and he’s stayed in shape over the years. Fryslie said he placed somewhere in the middle of the pack during a running exercise.
“I’m sure some of them wonder, when we’re doing the physical training portion of it, ‘Gee, can this old guy stay up with us?’” Fryslie said.
As they headed to lunch Thursday from the police training center on West Dimond Boulevard, another recruit jokingly asked Fryslie for his autograph. That’s typical and all in good fun, Fryslie said.
“No one’s out really like, ‘C’mon old man,’ or something like this,” Fryslie said. “But yeah, people will say, ‘Wow, you really surprised us.’ “
Still, Fryslie’s own sons — he has three grown children and one grandchild — probably poke more fun at him than anyone in the academy, he said.
“It’s, ‘Dad, you’re such an old man, don’t do this to yourself,’ but they’re pretty good about it,” Fryslie said.
“It’s kind of unusual for a 57-year-old guy to do a job change, especially with this type of job,” he said. “But it’s something I want to do, and I fit all the qualifications, and I’m going to do it.”