Fairbanks Police Chief talks first few months on the job
Nancy Reeder started work as the Chief of Police for the Fairbanks Police Department in June. She had previously worked as a lieutenant with the Anchorage Police Department where she was a 35-year veteran. She was picked to replace retired chief Eric Jewkes in April of this year.
Reeder said in an interview that the biggest challenge she has faced so far is the ongoing hiring issues at the department.
“The attrition is what’s getting us right now, and I didn’t expect to see the attrition as significant as it’s become recently,” Reeder said.
Reeder said that even though they have five new officers, they were already behind -- and now more are leaving.
“I was kind of hoping we were moving forward with hiring, and we were going to keep our staff that we had, and we were going to make these great strides. It was kind of like three steps forward and then we took about three back,” said Reeder.
One of the biggest issues she cites is the pay that they offer. Reeder said that they can’t compete with bigger stations and the Alaska State Troopers, who can afford to pay more money. She said smaller stations who offer the same pay also take candidates, and even current officers, citing two officers who recently left the FPD to take jobs at the North Pole Police Department. Reeder said that pay is something the City Council will have to address in the near future.
Because of the people leaving, officers have to work forced overtime, which Reeder said is another reason people leave.
She said one of the things the department is working on to improve hiring is selling the Fairbanks community to people who might be looking to apply from out of state.
“We can’t just sell the police department, but you have to sell the community and you have to sell Alaska, because we are going to hire people from out of state to come here,” said Reeder.
Chief Reeder also said that times have changed: “When you open up a testing for police officer, you don’t have hundreds of people coming in to apply for two or three positions anymore.” Now, she said that getting ten people to apply is significant.
Reeder said that there was a learning curve and that she, “Will be learning until my last day here -- that’s the bottom line.”
Looking to the future, the Chief said she wants to make sure to be engaged with the community and help humanize the officers.
“I think people kind of need to see what the department is like, and what we are like, and that we are all members of the community too. You know, we want the same things that they want. We are all the same, we just wear a different suit to work.”
The department plans on holding more activities where the community can come meet the officers, and also having officers help out kids and seniors in the community. In the end, Reeder said she wants to focus on hiring, and keep making the department more professional so it is better off when she leaves then when she took over.