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Hiring process called into question as Fairbanks Mayor picks new police chief

Published: Feb. 12, 2021 at 5:50 PM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - Fairbanks Mayor Jim Matherly has selected a new Chief of Police after the former chief left suddenly in August of 2020. However, some are questioning the transparency and fairness of the process.

On Thursday he announced, at the recommendation of a panel of local leaders, he had selected the current Acting Deputy Chief Ron Dupee to serve as chief for the department.

The choice was made after a long hiring process which saw 18 candidates apply for the position. Mayor Matherly enlisted the help of two subject matter experts, Juneau Police Chief Ed Mercer and Greg Russell, an independent Law Enforcement Practices Consultant as well as a retired police chief to help narrow the field to present to the panel.

It was this move that has some people claiming the process wasn’t fair and that there was a lack of transparency.

“So the concern I had was that it wasn’t as transparent and open of a process because the city implemented a review of all applications, external applications by subject matter experts,” said applicant Gregory Foster.

Foster was an officer with the Fairbanks Police Department for 22 years before retiring in the summer of 2020. He also was a finalist the last time the department hired a new chief. When he applied this time, he wasn’t even given an interview.

“I was notified that I wasn’t even going to move forward in the process,” Foster said. He went on to say that he doesn’t have a problem with who Matherly picked, he just wishes that he and seven other applicants that were not interviewed would have been given the opportunity to have been heard.

Foster is not the only one concerned about the process. Fairbanks City Council member Valerie Therrien also expressed concerns about how things were done.

“The mayor appointed a nine member committee and they were to interview the candidates,” Therrien said. She feels that all of the applicants should have had the chance to be heard by the committee.

“There is a lot of concern on the council that the process was not transparent enough and that maybe we need to go back to the drawing board,” she said.

Mayor Matherly’s office responded to a request for comment by saying that the subject matter experts were needed to narrow the field. An email from the Mayors office said, “This group narrowed the 16 external applicants to 8 external applicants that had the most preferred qualifications and experience. The two internal applicants were also moved forward to the interview phase.”

They also said that the entire process has been in the open and that while the mayor could have just picked someone to nominate, he wanted to ensure the community was involved in the process.

Ultimately the decision of who the new police chief will be is up to the city council. When they meet on Feb. 22, they are scheduled to take up Dupee’s nomination and vote whether or not to confirm him.

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