Anthony “Tony” April grew up in the inner city of Miami, Florida. As a young Black man , he was used to seeing police officers treating people poorly.
“They would see us talking, call us the N-word, slam you up against the car,” Tony said. “Once that happened, you started to have a dislike, I mean just a pure dislike, for cops.”
Witnessing the Miami riots in the 1980s reinforced that feeling, though not forever. After deliberating for less than three hours an all-white, all-male jury acquitted four Dade County police officers in the death of Arthur McDuffie, a Black insurance salesman and former Marine beaten to death after a traffic stop on a borrowed motorcycle. Reports say the riots caused $100 million in property damage. At least 18 people died. And that made an impression on Tony.
“I saw innocent people get killed because of the color of their skin on both sides,” Tony said.
Tony believed he would either end up in the system or dead if something didn’t change. Ironically, it was a police officer in the community that showed him a different path.
“Even though he was a cop, he was still saying ‘yes ma’am, no ma’am, yes sir, no sir,’” Tony said. “He had respect for the community, and he truly served the community. That completely changed my perspective of law enforcement.”
Tony decided to join the military. He would go on to build a career in law enforcement over the next 30 years, and today Tony is the deputy director of the Alaska State Troopers. He is the first Black person to be promoted to the major rank within troopers.
The military brought Tony to Alaska the first time in 1985. He and his family came back again in the early 90s when his wife, who was also in the military, was stationed in Alaska. That’s when Tony decided to transition out of the military and settle in Alaska to raise his family. He first worked for the Department of Corrections and eventually made his way to the troopers, where he’s been since 1997.
Aside from his professional experience, Tony attributes his success and achievements to his relationship with the community, the very thing that inspired him to become an officer all those years ago.
“I may wear a uniform, I may be a major with the Alaska State Troopers, but I’m your neighbor, I’m your friend, and I’m your coworker,” Tony said.
Even though he gets mistaken for a deacon or bishop at times thanks to his calm but sure demeanor, it’s his ability to counsel others that leads people to trust and believe in him as a leader. His attitude encourages people to build a relationship with him, too.
Tony’s background as a kid, his years of experience, and his approach to working with community all came together when he was promoted to deputy director in February 2023. His historic pinning ceremony was packed with people from all walks of life. That, he said, meant the world to him.
“It showed the love I have for the community that I serve, and the love that they have for me.”