ANCHORAGE - Gov. Sarah Palin on Saturday identified her "new direction" for the Department of Public Safety.
In a press release, Palin said she will direct Public Safety Commissioner Chuck Kopp to work cooperatively with state agencies, the military and other entities to expand the pool of applicants to fill vacant Alaska State Trooper positions.
She also directed Kopp to form a plan to deal with rural crime.
Kopp said he would bring a balanced managerial and leadership perspective to the Department of Public Safety.
"I will help form and then carry out the policy set forth by the Office of the Governor and meet the mission and needs of the department," he said.
The announcement came a day after Kopp's predecessor, Walt Monegan, commented publicly on why he may have been suddenly dismissed July 11.
Monegan, a former Anchorage chief of police, said he felt pressure from Palin administration officials and family members to fire a Palmer Alaska State Trooper, Mike Wooten, who had been involved in a bitter child custody battle with Palin's sister.
Monegan said he took no action to dismiss Trooper Wooten, and upon learning that allegations of drunken driving, illegal hunting, child abuse and threats to Palin family members had been investigated internally, did not open another formal investigation.
Monegan told the Anchorage Daily News he remains unsure of why he was fired but the Wooten affair could have been part of it.
"I don't know that it's all of it. ... I worked at the pleasure of the governor," he said.
Palin has had little comment on why Monegan was dismissed, saying only she wanted to move in a new direction and that the department could be better served under new management.
She replaced Monegan with Kopp, an 18-year veteran of the Kenai Police Department and, until Tuesday, its chief.
Palin said her public safety plan calls for efficiently using trooper resources and filling vacancies, possibly by reclassifying existing open trooper job positions. For example, by hiring specifically for court service officers or investigative support positions, she said, the jobs may be more easily filled.
The plan calls for a comprehensive review of alcohol and drug abuse and crime, particularly in rural Alaska, and possibly more resources directed at alcohol and drug interdiction.
Other highlights of the public safety plan include:
A recruiting effort focused on returning National Guard troops and other military service members, VPSO's and Alaska Natives.
Increase training for troopers and village public safety officers.
Legislation that will slow the flow of alcohol to rural Alaska, such as a reduction in the amount that can be shipped by written orders into rural Alaska.
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