Alaska State Troopers, Reality TV, Aired Six Years Till Two Troopers Killed

Escaped felon, Brian John Fahey, turned himself in to Alaska State Troopers in their parking lot on a Friday afternoon this past June because he was not only a fan of their show, he was impressed. He called them “professional and courteous, even when arresting someone.” How can a law enforcement agency get any higher commendation than that? The news went national.

When my sister-in-law Fran read my recent post saying I hardly ever watched TV anymore, I was a little leery when she suggested “Alaska State Troopers” on the National Geographic channel. But she’s not a reality TV fan, either, so when, in her quiet way, she spoke so positively about the show and the troopers themselves, not to mention the panoramic views of the Alaska Wilderness, Mike and I decided to check out her recommendation.

So what did we find that drew us into the show? Like Brian, the escaped felon, I found law enforcement professionalism the like of which is seldom seen here in what they call “the lower 48”. (I’ve seen both bad and good). The Alaska State Troopers are courteous, kind, sensitive to the lives of all they come in contact with, but tough when the situation demands.

On one episode, a man called police to get a prowler out of his yard. It turned out to be an elderly lady who was drunk as a skunk, falling about in the bushes under the man’s front window. The trooper helped the lady remove herself from the bushes, then held her and talked to her as comfortingly as he would his own mother. He called an ambulance. This was Alaska and she had been outside for a while. He walked beside her as the EMTs got her on the gurney and into the ambulance. “Don’t leave me,” she pleaded. “You’re my friend.” “I’ll come see you at the hospital,” he promised.

I learned that the Alaska State Troopers series was taken off in May, so we’ve watched three episodes on Netflix and really love it. The show ended for a time-out when two of their troopers were killed in the line of duty — Gabriel “Gabe” Rich, who had been on six episodes of the series, and Patrick “Scott” Johnson, who had appeared in four. Both were young men with wives and children.

Slain troopers Scott Johnson and Gabe Rich

I regret that the series had not come to our attention until now, when all these brave men and women are grieving their loss. After watching just these three episodes, I, too, am heartbroken. They gave their lives to help keep their beautiful state as untarnished and safe as humanly possible.

Only about 1,300 full-time sworn law enforcement officers patrol a state 1/5th the size of the entire lower-48. (Wikipedia). They are also game and wildlife enforcement officers besides being state troopers. They patrol by river, air, and sometimes on foot, through rugged and dangerous terrain. Bear attacks (more than in any other state) are always a very real possibility.The town in which the slain officers were called was Tanana, on the Yukon River, and could only be accessed by plane. Good roads are rare, but there are often no roads at all. Some of their calls are responded to on all-terrain vehicles.

But if you are looking for an adrenalin rush, you’ll have to watch more than three episodes. Mostly the troopers keep the peace and safety by pulling over drunk or drugged drivers. That’s dangerous enough because Alaska allows concealed weapons, and the troopers say about 95 percent of the population carry. The law says, however, that when stopped by a law enforcement officer, the driver must say immediately that he has a weapon.

Only once on the show so far have I seen anyone actually do that in a clear and concise voice. Most of the time the officer stands back from the window and asks, “Do you have a weapon?” When arresting someone, they do a quick search and ask, “Do you have anything on your person that could hurt me?” Sometimes the one they are arresting will spit in an officer’s face and must be restrained with a “spit shield”. It looks like the bag they once used to put over someone’s head when they were lined up and shot, but I suppose it works.

I was amazed that the arresting officer will sometimes try to take up for the culprit by saying he would probably not be that way if he wasn’t drunk. But I really like to see and hear how these officers care about the people, sometimes even saving them from themselves. They don’t seem to carry big egos along with their bulletproof vests and fat holsters.

Once I saw them do a drug set-up to try to get people who pushed oxycontin off the streets — which in these remote towns go for $200 to $400 per pill. They walk into some really dangerous situations, which include domestic calls when emotions run high and liquor and drugs are often involved. And don’t forget — everyone is packing.

But it’s not an adrenalin rush that will keep us coming back to watch more episodes. It’s the troopers themselves and their sheer joy in the job they’re doing and the life they are living. They are out in the most extreme wilderness in America, surrounded by breathtaking beauty. They paddle the rivers talking to fishermen and hunters. While checking that their equipment and licenses are in order, they just talk to them as one human being to another. Since they can’t cover so much territory alone, the officer may ask if they’ve seen anyone doing anything illegal in the area, or planes that might be bear spotters for illegal hunting. These troopers are serious about protecting the wildlife. But there are so few of them to cover such a vast territory. And yet, it’s the life they’ve chosen, and they wouldn’t have it any other way.

What is fascinating to me is that this is the story of brave men and women and their daily lives, and how they approach and handle situations. It’s probably what has kept the viewing public coming back year after year. I highly recommend this show. And a big thank you, sis, for giving us a heads-up on Alaska State Troopers. We are thoroughly enjoying it.


3 thoughts on “Alaska State Troopers, Reality TV, Aired Six Years Till Two Troopers Killed

  1. I have been watching for years I am an high volume auto shop owner and have seen about every thing with cops politics small town police departments growing way larger then need be any full of meen very I’n helpful officers with zero people skills and constantly escalate situations rather calm down I personally have stepped in at risk of being arrested and totaly calmed situation down police officers till total jerk I have grown to despise police I am 58 years old never been arrested or in trouble Alaska state troopers has warmed my heart and I totaly respect them. Wish there traing and management style would come to lower 48 Amazing troopers sincere and kind excellent job

    • Good for you, Bill, for stepping in where needed. I’ve known the good, the bad, and the ugly of policemen. I’ve admired many, and wanted to see a few get some of their own back. But Alaska State Troopers just won me over big time. Thanks for the comment. Stop by again.


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