Law enforcement officers traded uniforms for T-shirts and shorts on a warm Saturday morning on Mount Roberts.
The officers — Alaska Wildlife Trooper Sgt. Matthew Dobson, probation officer Katie Sullivan and community service officer Alisha Sell — joined family members for a two-hour, 1,800-foot climb to Father Brown’s Cross for the annual Cops on Top hike.
Cops on Top began in 1998, according to the group’s Facebook page, and encourages law enforcement officers to scale the highest point (or any point) in their state on the final Saturday of June. The program calls attention to the dangers of working in law enforcement, honors those killed in the line of duty and helps support a positive image of police officers.
“We thankfully have not had any officers killed in the state this year, but we have had officers shot in the line of duty,” Dobson said at the cross minutes after finishing the hike.
There have been 68 Alaskan law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty, including state trooper Tage Toll and village public safety officer Thomas Madole. Dobson said these 2013 deaths were the catalyst for the program beginning in Alaska.
“I like the fact that it’s a nationwide event,” Dobson said. “So right now all across the country law enforcement officers all around the country are climbing some mountain, somewhere.”
Accompanying Dobson up the mountain was Sell and her daughters, Kelsi and Leah. A community service officer with the Juneau Police Department, Sell’s father was a state trooper killed in the line of duty in 1997.
“His closest back-up was off-duty probably 20 minutes away, so nobody could get to him in the time,” Sell said. “My stepmom was the dispatcher on duty at the time so we have a lot of history with law enforcement.”
Sell said not a day goes by she doesn’t think of her father. Sell was hired by JPD in 2003, and was a dispatcher before becoming a community service officer.
“These programs, the Cops on Top, the Police Week, just gives me that opportunity to know that my dad hasn’t been forgotten, know that his sacrifice hasn’t been forgotten, and know that I’m still honoring him by participating in these,” Sell said.
On the other end of that line would sometimes be JPD officer James Quinto. The longtime police officer was not on the hike Saturday morning (he was working), but his wife, Marylee Cassell-Quinto, 46, and daughter, Jamie, 13, participated anyway.
Marylee said it’s not always easy to be married to a police officer, but it’s also a source of pride.
“He’s going into some really ugly situations and trying to do his best in terms of helping everyone in that situation,” Cassell-Quinto said. “Hopefully the community can appreciate that, too, because there’s that resistance towards law enforcement, but recognizing that they’re there only to help everyone out.”
Sell has found alarming comments spread on social media regarding local law enforcement.
“Facebook and other social media outlets — they’re kind of a blessing and a curse at the same time,” Sell said. “Because you get to know what’s going on but then again you get to see what people are talking about with law enforcement. There’s a lot of people that still, even in Juneau, have a lot of hatred toward JPD and law enforcement in general.”
• Contact reporter Nolin Ainsworth at 523-2272 or firstname.lastname@example.org.