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Acting Fairbanks Police Department Chief talks about the state of the department

Published: Nov. 10, 2020 at 4:57 PM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - Since Nancy Reeder’s sudden departure as police chief from the Fairbanks Police Department (FPD) earlier this year, Rick Sweet has taken over as acting chief while the city works on hiring a replacement. He says the department has been busy as they work on training their officers, getting new equipment and hiring new officers.

Reeder submitted her resignation in late August after holding the position for just over a year. During her time she had focused on training the officers and hiring new ones in an attempt to get the department fully staffed. Sweet said that since she left, the entire department completed Verbal Judo training which Reeder had brought in. Sweet also said that Reeder was working on getting implicit bias training before she left, something that they were able to bring to the department.

According to Sweet, the department needed a training plan. “One thing that we were missing overall was to have a coordinated plan for training. With all the recent activity we wanted to make sure we are capturing all the necessary de-escalation training.”

To do this, Sweet says they needed a new philosophy at the department. “The philosophy is that we develop it as repeating -- so how often is that, is that every year? Some things are every two years, some things every six months.”

He says they aren’t waiting until they hire a new chief to make improvements to the station. “We’re not waiting. You can’t wait, you got to move forward. We saw an opportunity to take this. The mayor gave us pretty much free rein to be able to do the training, spend the money to do it. He has been very supportive of us and so we just moved forward with it -- and I am going to keep going until they tell me, ‘you are no longer making those decisions’ and then I will move on.”

On top of training, Sweet also said they are working to update equipment that is getting old. He said vehicles are aging out, plus body and dash cameras are nearing the end of their service life and are no longer under warranty. FPD is also focusing on more less-lethal options. He said the trainings are only part of the equation, and having non-lethal options allows them to diffuse situations while still keeping their officers and the community safe, and helping people who may be undergoing a mental crisis. They are looking at purchasing pepper ball and non-lethal shotgun rounds. They also have purchased all new Tasers for officers that are more accurate and work better than the old ones.

Sweet said the department is also working on hiring new officers while the city works to select a new chief. He said they have partnered with a national agency that looks at police testing and helps match qualified applicants to the department. Currently he said they are working to send two applicants to the Alaska State Trooper Academy in Sitka, and they have another two lateral officers from outside the State of Alaska who are interested.

“We are in the process of looking at them. They have been up here and done a ride-along. They think they feel that it is a good fit up here for Fairbanks. They like Fairbanks. That is a very important piece -- you have got to like Fairbanks if you are going to be an officer here," Sweet said.

Overall, he said that the department is in good shape and working hard every day to fulfil their duties and keep the community safe.

According to the mayor’s office, they are still working on the process of hiring a new chief and should be releasing more information in the coming weeks.

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