New Hoonah Police Chief Rick Groshong is seen in an undated photo he provided to the Empire. (Courtesy photo)

New Hoonah Police Chief Rick Groshong is seen in an undated photo he provided to the Empire. (Courtesy photo)

Hoonah hires Wrangell policeman as new chief

Rick Groshong has 25 years of experience in Alaska law enforcement

Hoonah’s small police department has a new leader.

On Aug. 23, Rick Groshong of Wrangell became the new chief of the Hoonah Police Department after 22 years on the Wrangell police force.

“My wife and I decided we wanted to do something a little different,” he said by phone Tuesday.

“There were five or six chief jobs opening in the state; this is the one we really liked.”

Groshong has deep roots in Wrangell and in Southeast Alaska. He arrived in the region at age 14 and grew up in logging camps at Portage Bay and elsewhere in the region.

He attended the University of Alaska Southeast and the University of Alaska Fairbanks before attending the state police academy in 1991, where he was classmates with Juneau Police Chief Ed Mercer.

Groshong was police chief in the Yukon River village of St. Mary’s and interim chief in Galena before moving back to Southeast Alaska and Wrangell in 1996.

Groshong has deep roots in Wrangell, where he was named “Citizen of the Year” in 2012.

Earlier this year, Groshong was among 20 people who applied to become Petersburg’s police chief after the retirement of Kelly Swihart. That job ultimately went to Jim Kerr of Petersburg.

At the time he left Wrangell, Groshong was the senior patrol officer, and he said he’s used to small police departments like Hoonah’s.

Though the town has only about 750 full-time residents, it sees a population surge each summer as fishermen and tourists arrive. The department has four full-time officers (including the chief) and one part-time officer, whom Groshong said will be leaving in October.

Hoonah does not participate in the Uniform Crime Report surveys that provide crimes statistics to the FBI, but Groshong said Hoonah is typical of small Alaska communities when it comes to crime. Drugs and alcohol are issues, as are domestic incidents.

Groshong said he doesn’t see himself making any big changes in the department and said he’ll see how the first year goes. In the long term, he sees himself staying for 4-8 years if this first year goes well.

“I’m definitely enjoying Hoonah and the people a lot,” he said. “They have definitely treated me and my wife very well.”

• Contact reporter James Brooks at or 523-2258.

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