A Brief History of the Anchorage Police Department

By Phin Upham

Originally called Ship Creek Landing, Anchorage had fairly humble beginnings. Law enforcement at the time was in the hands of US Marshalls, as the Alaska Territory had changed hands recently and Anchorage was not yet incorporated as a city.

The first police chief of the city was a man named John J. Sturgus, and the city of Anchorage paid him $200 per month to keep the peace in 1920. He operated the police department singlehandedly until his death six weeks after becoming chief. He was murdered with his own gun, and the villain was never captured, despite a reward of $1,000 with an additional $250 from the mayor’s pockets.

A void was created, and the town council decided to hire night watchmen to fill it in 1926. A petition signed by property owners prompted the town to rethink their 24-hour police force, and they converted their watchmen into real cops. Foot patrol was the norm, but citizens volunteered cars for regular patrol use during heavy snowfall. By 1930, the department got its first car, a used Ford they had acquired for $63.75. In 1941, the department received a proper new police car with working sirens and lights.

From those humble beginnings grew Alaska’s largest police force, which now serves more than a quarter million people. Today’s police force contains specialized units like canines and SWAT teams. The APD even has its own hostage negotiation teams, and homicide response. Still, after all these years and all this technology, they cannot solve the murder of John J. Sturgus.

About the Author: Phin Upham is an investor at a family office/ hedgefund, where he focuses on special situation illiquid investing. Before this position, Phin Upham was working at Morgan Stanley in the Media & Technology group. You may contact Phin on his Phin Upham website or Twitter page.