City of Fairbanks announces plans to hire new police chief

Published: Nov. 19, 2020 at 5:16 PM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - The City of Fairbanks has announced its plans for hiring a new police chief for the Fairbanks Police Department (FPD). The spot was left vacant after the previous chief, Nancy Reeder, left the position suddenly in August. Since then, Rick Sweet has been serving as the acting chief at the department while they look to hire a replacement.

According to a press release from the city, Mayor Jim Matherly and the city council have created a panel of nine seats comprised of community members. The seats will be filled by members of:

  1. Homeless and Housing Coalition.
  2. NAACP.
  3. Behavioral Health.
  4. Native Leadership.
  5. Chamber of Commerce.
  6. Alaska State Troopers.
  7. Fairbanks Diversity Council.
  8. District Attorney’s Office.
  9. Interior Alaska Nonviolent Living.

The application process will be opened internally to members of FPD starting on Dec. 14 and closing Dec 21. If the city thinks more applicants will benefit the process, they will expand the application process to members outside of the department later.

The panel will interview the applicants, and then there will be a public forum in which each applicant will be asked questions provided by the Fairbanks Diversity Council.

The panel will then make a recommendation to the mayor. Mayor Matherly said that he will make his choice primarily based off of their recommendation, “I don’t have to select who they select, but I probably will. I just have to look and see what the decisions are and the reasons behind them.”

He also talked about some of the things he is looking for in a police chief.

“Somebody that will work with the department that we have to make a plan, to carry it forward, who will work with the existing police staff on training -- I think that is the most important thing -- and community policing,” Matherly said.

He added he wants the chief to be a blend of hands-on but also administrative.

Matherly said he will also take into consideration thoughts from the general public, and encourages residents of Fairbanks to email him during the process with those thoughts.

Once the mayor has made a decision and appointed a new chief, the city council will vote on the appointment to confirm them.

Matherly said that no matter who the chief is. they will face challenges: “Recruitment and retaining here in the Interior, the training component, and then getting out in the public and the community -- those are the three biggies for me.”

He went on to say that getting new officers is the biggest challenge; but once they have enough people, he said the rest should fall into place.

Matherly concluded by telling us if everything goes to plan, Fairbanks could have a new police chief as early as January.

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