A longtime Anchorage homicide detective, Slawomir Markiewicz, recently retired after three decades on the force. As detective sergeant of the Anchorage Police Department’s homicide unit, Markowitz was a familiar face and voice in news stories about Anchorage murders.
Now-retired Sgt. Markowitz spoke to Alaska Public Media’s Casey Grove.
Grove: If you don’t mind, I know it’s an interesting story, can you tell me how you got to the U.S., and how you ended up in Alaska?
Markiewicz: So I’m originally from Poland, and when I was growing up in Poland, actually, my dad was a police officer and that was kind of my dream at the time, that’s what I thought I would do. But then when I went to high school, became a teenager, became more aware of the Communist system in which I was living, and basically in the Communist Bloc, I realized that that I would never want to work for the communist government. There were demonstrations, that was martial law. A lot of people were immigrating. People were leaving Poland escaping the Communist repression by the thousands and then tens of thousands. So myself and my wife we were able to get on a trip to Rome to see the pope, and we went to Italy and we never came back. Once in Italy, we asked for political asylum, we were put in a refugee camp near Rome and then we got immigration visas and we came here in 1985. The way we ended up in Alaska was that we had some friends here who were sponsoring us, so they were our sponsors and they basically picked us up at the airport and took care of us while we were still, you know, learning how to function here. The day when we arrived here was actually one of the happiest days in our life.
Grove: So you said that your dad had been a cop and is that sort of the driving force to getting here and realizing that dream?
Markiewicz: Maybe one word about my dad, that he was just a street cop walking his beat. Certainly, it was the communist government, but he was keeping the peace and protecting citizens. But, yes, when I came here, I had an engineering degree and I had friends that went to work to like for the oil industry. I, kind of, from the beginning started looking into getting into law enforcement and when an opportunity arose I took the tests for APD in 1987, and I passed them and eventually I was hired.
Grove: When did you start deciding you wanted to pursue being a homicide detective?
Markiewicz: As it happens in life, there are, sometimes it’s just a coincidence or opportunity or doing the right thing at the right time. I was in detectives, actually, was approached by the sergeant and asked if I wanted to come to the homicide unit. At that time, I had two small children, and my wife sometimes had to travel on business, so I just didn’t see that as a possibility, because how could I go out in the middle of the night to go investigate a homicide if there are two little kids at home and there’s no no one else to take care of them? So I had to wait, and then the opportunity arouse my when my kids were 12 years old. There was an opening for the sergeant position in the homicide unit. At that time, I was already a sergeant, and I got the position and that was in 2005 and I remained there until my retirement.
Grove: What do you think is the biggest misconception that people have, about the job that you had for such a long time?
Markiewicz: I think the challenge that we saw and other detectives saw, and the misconception, is seen like in the jury room, sometimes maybe the jurors expected too much. Not all of them, but there was a time when everyone believed in DNA magic, if there is DNA, you know, you have the case solved. If there’s no DNA, you know, you can’t prove it. But it’s not as easy as that, you know, 90 percent of the time it’s good detective work. It’s not actually the technology or the crime scene that you see on TV, a lot of times, that solves it. It’s actually hard work, talking to people, interviews, looking for inconsistencies. Sometimes you get like “golden nuggets,” we call them, some nice pieces of evidence that will make the case stronger. But it’s still the detective that puts it all together. I imagine you’re not going to miss getting woken up in the middle of the night to go to a crime scene, but is there anything about it that you are going to miss you think? I have always been proud of working for APD. It’s been an honor and privilege to be a member of APD and I will just miss being around so many talented and smart people, and I will miss serving the wonderful people of Anchorage.