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DPS Welcomes Back Joel Hard

January 12, 2022 (Anchorage, AK)— The Alaska Department of Public Safety has hired former Alaska Wildlife Trooper Colonel Joel Hard as the new Director of Village Public Safety Officer Operations for the Alaska Department of Public Safety. The newly created Director of Village Public Safety Officer Operations will work out of the Commissioner’s Office with VPSO grantees to strengthen and revitalize the VPSO program.

“Joel brings a wealth of experience to this new position; as a 22-year veteran of the Alaska State Troopers, he knows firsthand the vital role that VPSOs play throughout rural Alaska,” said Alaska Department of Public Safety Commissioner James Cockrell. “Revitalizing the VPSO program is a key priority of the Governor and DPS leadership. Joel has the proven leadership, management, and law enforcement experience to help us hire a VPSO for every community that wants one.”

Joel Hard retired as the Colonel of the Division of Fish and Wildlife Protection, now known as the Alaska Wildlife Troopers, in 2003. Prior to serving as Colonel, Joel worked in both urban and rural Alaska in various assignments, including patrol, investigations, drug interdiction and enforcement, and command. After retiring, Joel worked for the National Park Service and most recently served as the Alaska Region Deputy Regional Director.

“I’m excited to return to the Department of Public Safety and support Commissioner Cockrell’s commitment to strengthen the VPSO program. VPSOs serve a critical public safety function in Alaska’s remote communities by acting as a first responder to medical, fire, search and rescue, and law enforcement incidents in the community that they live and work in,” said VPSO Operations Director Joel Hard. “I look forward to working with the grantees and along with the Division of Alaska State Troopers and Alaska Wildlife Troopers to reimagine this program in ways that improve its presence and performance in rural Alaska and elevate its importance within the Department.”

Joel’s first day was January 10, 2022, his position will be based out of DPS Headquarters in Anchorage.

 

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Homicide Victim Found on Fire Island in 1989 Identified by DNA Analysis and Genetic Genealogy

December 1, 2021 (Anchorage, AK) – On July 24th, 1989, human remains were found on the northwest shore of Fire Island, west of Anchorage.  Investigators from the Alaska State Troopers (AST) responded to the scene and collected the remains.  An autopsy concluded that the victim was a Caucasian male, estimated to be 35 to 50 years of age.  Evidence was found on the remains that indicated the death was criminal in nature.  An anthropologist estimated that the remains had been lying exposed on the beach for at least a year, but an approximate date of death could not be accurately determined.  All efforts by AST to identify the victim were unsuccessful. The victim’s remains were eventually interned at the Anchorage Municipal Cemetery. 

In 2003, hair and tissue samples that had been collected at autopsy were sent to the FBI Laboratory in Virginia.  A mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) profile was developed.  The profile was entered into the national missing persons database, but no identification was made.    

In 2021, the Alaska Bureau of Investigation (ABI) Cold Case Investigation Unit reopened the investigation.  Bone samples from the victim that had been retained by the State Medical Examiner’s Office were sent to Othram Inc., a private forensic DNA laboratory in Woodlands TX.  Scientists at Othram were able to extract DNA from the bone samples. They used forensic-grade genome sequencing to develop a comprehensive DNA profile.  The profile was uploaded into a genealogy database. The profile was linked to other persons in the database, some of whom had ties to Alaska.  Subsequent genealogy research by Othram and AST indicate that the victim may be Michael Allison Beavers.

Michael Beavers had been reported missing to the Anchorage Police Department in January 1980, by his spouse.  He was last seen alive in late November 1979, at age 40, when he left his residence in Chugiak to travel by automobile to Seattle, WA to contact a business associate there.  Beavers was a heavy equipment operator, and he owned an excavation business in Chugiak. Beavers never arrived in Seattle.  No information was developed to indicated what had become of Beavers and the investigation was closed in 1982.  In 1992, Beavers was officially declared deceased.

Investigators with the AST Alaska Bureau of Investigation (ABI) located a close blood relative of Beavers’ and obtained a DNA sample.  Subsequent DNA analysis confirmed that the remains found on Fire Island were in fact those of Michael Beavers.  The investigation into this incident is on-going.  If anyone has any information regarding Beavers’ disappearance and murder, please contact the ABI Cold Case Investigation Unit at (907) 375-7728 or the main ABI number at (907) 269-5611. 
  
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The Division of Fire and Life Safety Encourages Safe Holiday Cooking

November 23, 2021 (Anchorage Alaska) – As Thanksgiving quickly approaches, the Division of Fire and Life Safety and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) urges everyone to stay safe this holiday season and remember to use caution while cooking your holiday meal.  Thanksgiving is the leading day for home cooking fires, more than three times the cooking fires on any other day nationwide. 

“This time of year can be busy and full of holiday activities.  It’s easy to become distracted while cooking and lose sight of what’s on the stove or in the oven,” said public education coordinator and fire training specialist Virginia McMichael.  “52% of residential fires in Alaska in 2020 were caused by cooking or carelessness. Pay special attention to what is going on in your kitchen this Thanksgiving.” According to NFPA data, cooking was the leading cause of reported home structure fires and civilian fire injuries and the second-leading cause of civilian fire deaths and direct property damage, on annual average from 2015 to 2019. On Thanksgiving Day alone, an estimated 1,400 home cooking fires were reported to U.S. fire departments in 2019, reflecting a 228 percent increase over the daily average.
 
  • Keep things that can catch fire like oven mitts, wooden utensils, food wrappers, and towels at least three feet away from the cooking area.
  • Avoid long sleeves and hanging fabrics that can come in contact with a heat source.
  • Always cook with a lid beside your pan. If you have a fire, slide the lid over the pan and turn off the burner until the pan is completely cool.
  • Never throw water on a cooking fire.
  • Stay in the kitchen while you are frying, grilling, boiling, or broiling food.
  • Don’t use the stove or stovetop if you are sleepy or have consumed alcohol.
Deep frying your Thanksgiving turkey can be incredibly dangerous. Every year across the nation deep-fryer fires are responsible for five deaths, 60 injuries, the destruction of hundreds of homes, and more than $15-million in property damage, according to the National Fire Protection Association. If you choose to deep fry your bird this year be sure to follow the cooking instructions closely, always keep your deep fryer outside, never leave it unattended, and keep a class B fire extinguisher nearby.

For additional information on cooking safety, visit the National Fire Protection Association: https://www.nfpa.org/Public-Education/Fire-causes-and-risks/Top-fire-causes/Cooking

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