Husband-wife police officers patrol Kodiak streets

By James Brooks

Kodiak Daily Mirror

Published: Sunday, March 4 2012 9:06 a.m. MST

In this Feb. 28, 2012 photo, Elizabeth and Michael Chiesa pose in front of a stuffed Kodiak bear in the Kodiak, Alaska Police Department lobby. Elizabeth, a former corrections officer, is the newest officer on the Kodiak force and has joined her husband on the patrol roster.

Kodiak Daily Mirror, James Brooks, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

KODIAK, Alaska — On the duty roster in the Kodiak Police Department's break room, officer Elizabeth Chiesa's name doesn't stand alone.

The newest KPD officer, Chiesa was sworn in in November and just completed her three-month training rotation. On the duty sheet, she's listed alongside Barnett, de la Fuente and Chiesa. That's Michael Chiesa, her husband.

At shift changes, "we joke about the changing of the Chiesas," she said.

Having a husband-wife team of police officers isn't unheard of, but it is rare, said police chief T.C. Kamai.

"I think that's a little less common, particularly in a department of our size," he said.

The couple were born and raised in California, but each took different paths to becoming officers. Michael has 20 years of experience in law enforcement, while Elizabeth worked in schools, as an EMT and came to Kodiak as a corrections officer, then became a patrol officer when an opening became available.

The pair met in rural Northern California when both were stationed there by different law-enforcement agencies.

"It was an hour and a half drive to the nearest grocery store," Michael recalled.

With few people around, they got to know each other and fell in love. Their love of Alaska came later, when they took a vacation to Southeast.

"That's when we realized we shared a love of Alaska," Michael said.

One year ago, the Kodiak Police Department had two openings, one for a patrol officer and another for a corrections officer. The openings came just as the Chiesas were looking for a way to get to Alaska together.

"They were qualified, and they interviewed well and they both tested well in our selection process," Kamai said. "They've turned out to be excellent representatives of the police department."

There are special city rules to prevent nepotism, which means taking special care on the administration side, Kamai said.

For the Chiesas, coming to Kodiak meant leaving a rural area and switching to something closer to urban. Though the place is different, the job is mostly the same, they said.

"We're dealing with people when they're in the worst situation of their lives," Michael said. "A lot of times, it's simply listening."

Because police work runs in shifts, the Chiesas don't get to see each other as much as they would like. One might be working while the other is at home. Every few weeks, however, the shifts align, and they can enjoy Kodiak's outdoors. Both enjoy camping and escaping to remote places.

"We try to leave the job at the job," Elizabeth said.

When the time comes, however, both said they're ready to take the job back up and help people as best they can.

"I know if I do all I can ... at the end of the day, I have a clear conscience," Michael said.

Information from: Kodiak Daily Mirror, http://www.kodiakdailymirror.com

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