Ketchikan Police Chief Jeff Walls speaks at a meet-and-greet at the Ted Ferry Civic Center on Thursday. (Eric Stone/KRBD)

Ketchikan’s new police chief says he’s looking at options to address the community’s opioid problem. Jeff Walls was sworn in earlier this month.

Walls told a small crowd at a meet-and-greet at the Ted Ferry Civic Center on Thursday that he plans to focus outreach efforts on discouraging drug abuse.

“The biggest thing is prevention. And that’s what I see us doing involved in the schools. And the last thing I want to do is create another generation with addiction, and that’s where I’m afraid it can go,” Walls said.

Walls said he recently met with a Ketchikan Wellness Coalition task force aimed at reducing drug abuse known as PIERS. He’s planning to hold an event with the group on April 2 that aims to help adults spot the signs of drug abuse in children.

Walls says he’s also interested in helping the court system to stand up a program that would place low-level drug offenders in treatment rather than jail.

“Thinking of what (we can) do to help the community the most, and that’s drug prevention, and rehabilitation (are) the really only tools that you have that are most successful,” Walls said.

There are currently diversion programs for people suffering from drug and alcohol addiction in some larger communities. Walls said he’d like to work with local judges to get a similar program set up in Ketchikan. And he could find help from an incoming Ketchikan Superior Court judge — Dan Doty told KRBD earlier this month that addiction was an issue close to his heart. Doty said he’d worked to expand the therapeutic courts in Bethel.

Walls said he plans to continue community engagement programs started by his predecessor, Joe White, and start some of his own. Some were put on hold during the pandemic.

“We’re going to bring all that back with coffee on your corner, coffee with the chief and stuff like that — all that stuff that Chief White established, we’re bringing it all back and just growing it,” he said.

Walls said in his previous position as a New Orleans police commander, he held regular meetings to hear feedback and answer questions from the public. He said he was considering a similar program in Ketchikan.

And he said he’d like to purchase a police dog to serve, at least partially, as a mascot.

“It’d be more of an Officer Friendly type of thing, and also it would be good for you know, narcotics — it’d be a dual purpose,” Walls said.

Walls said he’s continuing to meet with local stakeholders and plans to sit down with tribal leaders in the near future.