The University Police Department, or UPD, keeps students, faculty, staff and visitors safe on the UAA campus. UPD is proud to have two new officers to serve the community. Both officers were sworn in by Chief of Police Jeff Earle during a department meeting in Eugene Short Hall on Jan. 22.
Officer Chris Chiavetta has been an officer for six years and moved to Alaska from Florida. Moving from such a warm place to a cold one like Alaska can be difficult at first, he said.
“It’s cold. I refuse to wear a jacket because it limits access to my tool belt. I have seven years of muscle memory in reaching for things, such as my firearm or a flashlight. I see a jacket getting in the way and, being this many years in, it would be tough to retrain my muscle memory,” Chiavetta said.
Chiavetta and his family were excited to move to Anchorage and felt that UAA would be the best fit for them. He became an officer for a reason he believes most officers join.
“It’s a call for service to the community. Also, being able to interact with all walks of life has always interested me — hearing their perspectives and ideals. I have gone from being a protection detail for a Marine General to relocating a homeless family to a shelter all in the same day,” Chiavetta said.
Working on campus as an officer provides a unique role for Chiavetta. He sees challenges that his previous job did not have, but is excited about how great the team of officers at UPD is.
“It’s different where I come from, where everything and everyone is a constant threat. I have already seen UPD officers training and speaking about the unlikely event of an active shooter situation. The mindset with the officers is in the right place and the administrative staff offers the opportunity for advanced training. Response to active shooters, crime prevention and RAD classes are unique from my perspective as these are things my previous employer did not offer the public,” Chiavetta said.
Officer Michael Lynch is the other new recruit to UAA’s UPD and he has been an officer for 11 years. Lynch is originally from Seattle, Washington. He sees UPD as a special place to work as an officer.
“UAA provides one of the most unique opportunities in law enforcement. We have a unique opportunity to help guide the future leadership of this state. As is well documented, a large number of leaders in this state are UAA alumni. Building positive relationships with students and staff will foster trust and partnerships with the community as the student body turns into the next wave of leaders,” Lynch said.
He also understands that serving the campus community is important, as he grew up with this sense of duty.
“I grew up in a household that placed service above self. Both of my parents were teachers in the Sumner school district in Washington. I saw a great opportunity to carry out what my parents instilled in us every day; to serve the community that helped raise us and molds us as people,” Lynch said.
Though Seattle is just a plane ride away, it is a contrast to Alaska in terms of community. The people and landscape are things not common in other parts of the country, Lynch said.
“Alaska continues to have the ‘help thy neighbor’ mentality that has long disappeared in the Lower 48. You still see people opening doors for each other, stopping for disabled vehicles in the roadway, smiling at one another and genuinely enjoying the beautiful landscape,” Lynch said.
Lynch sees the blockages that the UAA community faces. He is confident that these can be overcome.
“The current challenge at UAA is the ability to make face-to-face contact with every member of the UAA community. There is still a stigma out there that law enforcement is only here to catch you when you are in trouble. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Face-to-face contact helps us relay what exactly we do at UAA,” Lynch said.
Lynch notes the importance of his job in terms of the people at UAA and in Anchorage.
“Having the ability to proactively build a bridge between law enforcement and the community. Individuals at UAA are a motivated and dedicated group. I am proud that I have the opportunity to serve them and keep them in a safe environment that is conducive to a worry-free focus on curriculum and social growth,” Lynch said.
The University Police Department is located in Eugene Short Hall, Room 114. The non-emergency number for UPD is (907) 786-1120.