Walter J. Gilmour Leads the Trooper Academy

We continue with excerpts from the previously unpublished writings of Walter Gilmour. In this installment, he talks about his time at the Trooper Academy in Sitka, now called the Public Safety Training Academy. Walt was the Director of the Academy from 1975 to 1977. [Full disclosure: my ex-wife worked as a rape-sensitivity training instructor at the Academy during Walter’s tenure.]

Maj. Walter J. Gilmour

“In 1975, I was transferred to the Alaska State Trooper Academy in the rain-soaked and isolated environs of Sitka, which is situated on an island in Southeast Alaska. I remained there until 1977 and, during that time, I missed out on direct knowledge of Robert C. Hansen’s continuing escapades. Still, I would participate in an exercise that would impact Hansen’s ability to carry on his sickening and dangerous game.

Sitka, Alaska from the water

“Trooper training is rigorous, comprehensive and, frankly, designed to weed out candidates who fall short of our admittedly high standards. The State Troopers Academy also sees itself as a progressive institution, one which is concerned about bringing Troopers into the world who not only understand those who commit crimes, but the victims of those crimes. An ability to relate to the victim is not just a forward-looking police concept, but goes a long way toward the solution of a crime, since the victim can be one of the firmest links to the perpetrator.

Public Safety Training Academy, Sitka, Alaska

“Some of the most insidious crimes police have to deal with are sexual offenses, especially rape. The assailant is often known by the victim, but because of mishandling of the victim on the part of police and the courts, rapes are underreported, under-prosecuted and subject to an abysmally low conviction rate when they are prosecuted. In the mid-70s, while I was at the Trooper Academy, it was determined that we needed to do a better job when it came to handling rape cases.

“Our response was to institute several changes to our approach to sexual offenses. At the Academy, we began to incorporate a rape sensitivity component into trooper training. Using role playing and lectures by recognized experts in rape victim advocacy, we hoped to increase trooper awareness of the special problems presented by rape cases, including the sometimes paralyzing trauma experienced by the victim.

“At a statewide level, it was recognized that we also needed to do something to increase the reporting level in rape cases. We found that victim distrust of the police was one of the greatest obstacles to overcoming the underreporting of rape. Since at that time a network of rape crisis centers specializing in victim advocacy was starting to spring up across the state, it was suggested that we could overcome those difficulties by instituting a third-party reporting system. In this system, rape crisis centers served as intermediaries between victims and the police, and hopefully narrowed the gap between the two.”

This new program would ultimately lead troopers back to Robert Hansen.

Exploring Sitka: Credit: Perfect Little Planet

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