Retired Alaska State Trooper Col. James Cockrell — who has held leadership posts with the Alaska State Troopers and the Alaska State Wildlife Troopers — is poised to become Alaska Public Safety commissioner.
Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy nominated the career state trooper Tuesday to head the Alaska Department of Public Safety, an agency with more than 300 commissioned officers.
“We’re grateful he’s coming back to help us,” Dunleavy said at a press conference announcing Cockrell’s nomination. “He always returns when duty calls.”
Cockrell’s appointment as Public Safety commissioner requires approval by the Alaska Legislature. Dunleavy’s office announced that Cockrell’s name will be submitted immediately to the House and Senate for confirmation.
“Public Safety and restoring law and order in Alaska is my No. 1 priority,” Dunleavy said. “Jim Cockrell has the experience and respect to lead this department and continue to keep Alaskans safe statewide.”
Sen. Tom Begich released a statement of support, saying that “the Senate Democrats are encouraged by Col. Cockrell, who has a distinguished career of leadership within the Department.” Republican Senate President Peter Micciche also lauded the nomination, saying “I can’t think of a better choice.”
Cockrell’s advancement to Alaska Public Safety commissioner seems all but certain, given his extensive experience and background at the department. Cockrell’s career in Public Safety spans 30 years and includes serving as a director with the state troopers and with the state wildlife troopers. He retired as colonel in 2017.
“I am beyond humbled that the governor has asked me to serve as the commissioner of the Department of Public Safety,” Cockrell said.
“I am honored to be part of a strong and dedicated family in DPS and will continue the push to preserve the peace, enforce the law, prevent and detect crime, and protect the state’s wildlife, and life and property for every Alaskan,” he added.
The son of a state trooper, Cockrell is likely to return a sense of stability to the Public Safety Department, since Commissioner Amanda Price abruptly resigned in February and accused Dunleavy of forcing her out. Kelly Powell, a long-time Public Safety administrator, has been serving as interim commissioner since Price’s departure.
Cockrell is known as an advocate for state troopers and for the Public Safety Department. On Tuesday, he promised Public Safety employees that “I will work tirelessly to give you the tools to do your job each day.”
Cockrell previously supported the use of body cameras, which state troopers do not use, and has called for a greater presence of state troopers in rural communities.
At Tuesday’s press conference announcing his nomination, Cockrell described state troopers in rural Alaska as “the beacon when it comes to responding to the villages.”
Since leaving the Public Safety Department, Cockrell has served as site security supervisor for Marathon, at its Kenai refinery.
Contact political reporter Linda F. Hersey at 459-7575 or follow her at twitter.com/FDNMpolitics.