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Unalaska Hires Police Chief After Nearly Two And A Half Year Search

Berett Wilber/KUCB


The City of Unalaska has hired a new police chief, officials announced last week. 

Jay King, from the Montgomery Police Department in Alabama, accepted the offer and is expected to start his new position with the city no later than Sept. 1, according to City Manager Erin Reinders. 

"I'm very excited about hiring a police chief that will be here on a permanent basis," Reinders said. "I think John Lucking has done a splendid job here in a time of need, and a very challenging time for our community. We are all looking forward to a successful transition to a permanent police chief, and I'm looking forward to what the future holds for sure."

King will be replacing Interim Police Chief John Lucking, who has been with the Department of Public Safety since the resignation of Acting Chief Jennifer Shockley in February of last year. 

Lucking — who first worked as a police officer in Unalaska in the 1980s, and eventually became chief before leaving the community in the early 2000s to head up police departments in Soldotna and Sand Point— was initially brought back by the city on a temporary six-month contract. He extended his time in Unalaska due to the lengthy search for candidates and a number of difficult incidences that shook the community, including last year's fatal car crash off Mount Ballyhoo that killed two Unalaska teenagers, a fatal plane crash in October, a series of drug overdoses, and the loss of two more young Unalaskans earlier this year: high school senior Alexis Magalongand recent graduate and local Trey Henning

"The last year and a half has been one like Unalaska has never seen before, with major events that have come with relentless regularity," said Lucking. "And while I wish I could have been more insulated from the string of tragedies that we all encountered together, I'm glad that I was there to give a little back to a place that has always provided me with far more than I could ever give back in return."

Unalaska has been without a full-time head of the department since the retirement of

Mike Holman in January of 2018. After a nearly two-and-a-half year nationwide search, King was selected as Unalaska's next police chief from a total of thirteen applicants, according to city officials. The selection process consisted of two rounds of remote interviews and an onsite visit that included an additional panel interview with community members, a community meet and greet, a radio call-in show, and an opportunity to spend time with Public Safety staff. 

King has been with the Montgomery Police Department for more than 25 years. He currently serves as a Police Major and is the Administrative Division Commander. His background includes both military and civilian law enforcement, and he has experience in both fire service and emergency management. He also holds a master's degree in Justice and Public Safety from Auburn University and is presently enrolled in a master's program for Public Administration, according to the city. 

"I'm excited for the entire city that we have moved to bring on a permanent police chief finally, one who I do believe will be committed to the community and to the department they will lead," Lucking said. "We have put forward a considerable amount of work to ensure that we have an upstanding public service minded individual who will be a good fit for our town. This includes a thorough background investigation, consisting of personal and professional record checks, credit checks, a multitude of interviews, psychological examination, polygraph examination, and medical examination to name a few. My hope is that these efforts will pay off in the future with a police chief of long tenure, who provides a quality policing service to people who deserve nothing short of the best."

Reinders said a thorough background check is currently underway, and if all goes according to plan, King should be in Unalaska by late summer. 

"I think he's excited," said Reinders. "He remains engaged and is very enthusiastic about coming up here and being a part of the community."


Hope McKenney is a public radio news director, reporter, producer and host based in the Aleutian Islands, Alaska.
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