Kenai Police Chief David Ross. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai Police Chief David Ross. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai Police Chief talks police-civilian relationships, treating people ‘with dignity’

The Kenai Police Department looks at guidelines and training that could potentially prevent inappropriate police conduct, Ross said.

Law enforcement has been under an extraordinary amount of scrutiny this past year, with many precincts across the country feeling ripple effects from the different waves of demonstrators calling for police reform.

David Ross, the chief at the Kenai Police Department, has felt the tension.

In his department, he said there are ongoing trainings and conversations about police-civilian relationships, especially after this summer’s protests over the killing of a Black Minneapolis man, George Floyd, by a white officer, Derek Chauvin, who was found guilty on Tuesday of Floyd’s murder on all charges.

At the Kenai Police Department, Ross said they look at policy guidelines and trainings that could potentially prevent inappropriate police conduct. This year, the staff did a seven-hour de-escalation training as well as a four-hour intervention course.

“That’s another good reminder to young and old officers,” Ross said. “That they have a duty to intervene if they see a misuse of force by another officer.”

People must be high school graduates and at least 21 years old to apply to be a police officer. Once they’re accepted, they attend the 16-week Department of Public Safety Academy in Sitka.

Ross said the academy in Sitka is a “paramilitary” type. There are intense boot camp and defense training components, as well as academic studies of statutes and search and seizure laws.

Additionally, officers-to-be receive diversity training at the academy. Ross himself took the class nearly 20 years ago.

“I think ultimately it helps reinforce the expectation that we treat all people with dignity, with respect, with professionalism, and compassion,” Ross said. “And I think that’s what it comes down to.”

The Kenai Police Department has different training officers on-site, Ross said.

“We try to develop our own instructors so we can do our own in-service training,” he said.

Ross also said several of his staff members have gone to the 10-week leadership academy in Quantico, Virginia.

The protests over policing this summer, and most recently the killings of a 20-year-old Black man, Daunte Wright, and 13-year-old Adam Toledo, who is Latino, have sparked large movements including Black Lives Matter and Defund the Police.

“I think when we see things happen in other places, whether that’s tragedies or crime or poor police conduct … we always try to take a look at ‘What are we doing?’ and ‘Are there things we can do better?’” Ross said. “What can we do to better train our officers? What can we do to better protect them and the department from any missteps in the way we perform our jobs?”

Ross said the Kenai community often sends the department cards or care packages to show their appreciation for the work they do.

“It’s encouraging to officers that see, sometimes, police portrayed very negatively in the news,” Ross said. “We live in a great community and we have a long history of a very good police department, so I think a lot of what policing comes down to is the quality of people we hire to do the job and then a culture of treating the people we serve with … professionalism and dignity and respect and compassion.”

Defunding the police, which has become a refrain among some social justice organizers nationwide, Ross said, would require a lot of deliberation.

“That’s an interesting phrase that gets thrown out a lot,” Ross said. “I think there needs to be a much deeper discussion, if you want to defund the police, on what you don’t want the police to do.”

Some proponents say defunding the police to invest heavily in other systems — like education, housing, social work and mental health services — would limit civilian interaction with law enforcement, which some say disproportionately targets people of color.

“Do you not want them [police] to respond to property crimes? Do you want them to respond slower to 911 calls?” Ross said. “I think until you can sit down and have the conversation about what you don’t want them to do, then that ‘Defund the Police’ is just kind of hollow words.”

When asked about the spectrum of roles police should play in society — particularly if those in law enforcement should be first responders for everything from finding missing pets to de-escalating a violent domestic dispute — Ross agreed there could be room for reassessment.

“I think sometimes police have been used for so many things in some places, they get scapegoated,” Ross said, “whether that’s in addiction treatment or lack of mental health treatment or homelessness issues. So the less, maybe, we deal with those things out of the police purview, the more they become a problem in the police purview.”

Reach reporter Camille Botello at

More in News

Dr. Katherine Ortega Courtney speaks during the 100% Alaska Community Town Hall on Saturday, June 3, 2023, at Peninsula Center Mall in Soldotna, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
100% Alaska survey results, state of services discussed at town hall

Change 4 the Kenai leads conversation about access to mental health, housing, transportation

Soldotna High School senior Josiah Burton testifies in opposition to a proposed cut of Kenai Peninsula Borough School District theater technicians while audience members look on during a board of education meeting on Monday, March 6, 2023, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Awaiting state funding, board of ed works to bring back staff positions

Alaska lawmakers this session passed a budget bill that includes $175 million in one-time funding for Alaska’s K-12 schools

David Brighton (left) and Leslie Byrd (right) prepare to lead marchers from the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex to Soldotna Creek Park as part of Soldotna Pride in the Park on Saturday, June 3, 2023 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
‘Nobody Can Drag Us Down’: Soldotna celebrates LGBTQ+ pride

The event featured food trucks, vendors and a lineup of performers that included comedy, drag and music

Judges Peter Micciche, Terry Eubank and Tyler Best sample a salmon dish prepared by chef Stephen Lamm of the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank at Return of the Reds on Saturday, June 3, 2023, at the Kenai City Dock in Kenai, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai celebrates ‘Return of the Reds’ in food bank fundraiser

Chefs competed for best salmon recipe; fresh-caught fish auctioned

A freshly stocked rainbow trout swims in Johnson Lake during Salmon Celebration on Wednesday, May 10, 2023, at Johnson Lake in Kasilof, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Excellent lake fishing, good halibut and slow salmon

Northern Kenai Fishing Report for June 1

Map via Kenai Peninsula Borough.
Assembly to consider emergency service area for Cooper Landing

Borough legislation creating the service area is subject to voter approval

Peter Micciche (center) listens to the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly certify the results of the Feb. 14, 2023, special mayoral election, through which he was elected mayor of the Kenai Peninsula Borough, on Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2023 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Thousands respond to borough services survey

Many of the survey questions focused on the quality of borough roads

Two new cars purchased by the Soldotna Senior Center to support its Meals on Wheels program are parked outside of the center in Soldotna, Alaska, on Wednesday, March 30, 2022.(Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion file)
Soldotna budget defunds area senior center

The unanimous vote came after multiple people expressed concerns about how the center operates

An Epidemiology Bulletin titled “Drowning Deaths in Alaska, 2016-2021” published Wednesday, May 31, 2023. (Screenshot)
Health officials say Alaska leads nation in drowning deaths, urge safe practices

A majority of non-occupational Alaska drownings occur in relation to boating, both for recreation and for subsistence

Most Read