The Wrangell, Alaska Police Department is small: one chief, one lieutenant, one sergeant, four officers, and support and jail personnel. The department has all of the issues facing all smaller agencies, but has a huge one that few others face: patrol area and isolation. Lots of departments talk about three-minute response times, minimum personnel numbers per shift and how many guys respond to each call. WPD talks in terms of hours, possibly days to get to a crime scene.
Wrangell is the seat of the Wrangell Borough, an area of 3,499 square miles (twice the size of Delaware), dozens of islands, hundreds of isolated logging camps, canneries, lodges and small villages. On the rare sunny summer day, there is no place nicer, but most of the year is rain, fog, and wind—all of which can make transporting officers to a call difficult. On Wrangell Island, the police can get to most places by Crown Victoria or 4×4 trucks, but the east and south portions can only be reached by boat or air. If the weather is bad (often), planes can’t fly and the seas are too rough for small boats. You can be stuck there for days.
Wrangell PD’s custom-built twin diesel patrol boat is used to cover dozens of islands, villages, and camps in a jurisdiction twice the size of Delaware – all while facing Alaska’s notoriously turbulent weather
Wrangell is about 100 miles north of Ketchikan, 800 miles south of Anchorage. If the local cops need help, they can call the State Troopers. Ketchikan can send a couple of troopers, weather permitting. If it’s a major problem, the Troopers can fly the SERT team from Anchorage—maybe eight hours if all of the planets line up. On a normal day, WPD has one officer on patrol. If he gets in a jam at the south end of the road system, it might take an hour for the first backup unit to arrive.