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The public hasn’t previously had a role in the selection of police and fire chiefs. Some say that should change.

KTUU
KTUU
Published: Mar. 5, 2021 at 6:53 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The public has not had a formal role in the selection of Anchorage’s past and present police and fire chiefs, but as both positions will need to be filled this summer, some community members are already asking to be included in the process.

In the last few weeks, both Anchorage Police Department Chief Justin Doll and Anchorage Fire Department Chief Jodie Hettrick have confirmed plans to retire in June.

During an Anchorage Assembly Public Safety Committee meeting Wednesday, assembly members discussed the process for selecting new chiefs.

In short, the mayoral candidate who wins the upcoming municipal election will appoint an individual to each chief position. The Anchorage Assembly will then meet and discuss the appointment in a work session that is open to the public, then vote during a regular meeting on whether to confirm the appointee.

During Wednesday’s meeting, members of the public expressed interest in providing feedback before appointees are confirmed.

“We have seen so many cases over the years of police abuse, and we need to be sure that as we’re setting up the department that the public has a role in this process,” said Anchorage resident Emily Kloc.

President and CEO of the Alaska Black Caucus Celeste Hodge Growden also spoke out in favor of including members of the public in the decision making process.

“I too would like to go on record as urging support for community input, community engagement, inclusion,” Hodge Growden said.

Anchorage Assembly Member Crystal Kennedy said the public has never had a formal role in the process before.

“The question really is, ‘Do we want to somehow create one?’ and obviously that would have to be in conjunction with the mayor, whoever that is, who will be making that selection,” Kennedy said.

Assembly Member Felix Rivera said he would hope the assembly can partner with the incoming mayor to create a more robust public process, pointing to the City of Fairbanks, which recently opened up its selection process to the public to fill a police chief position.

“That could be something that we could emulate here and I think especially in light of the discussions that happened in 2020, I think it’s worth considering,” Rivera said.

According to a November press release from the City of Fairbanks, Mayor Jim Matherly decided to create a nine-person panel of community members to interviewed applicants and hosted a public forum using questions provided by the Fairbanks Diversity Council.

On Feb. 11, Matherly announced local candidate Ron Dupee as the new chief of police in Fairbanks. Then, on Feb. 22, the Fairbanks City Council voted to postpone Dupee’s hiring after over an hour of hearing comments from residents, KTVF reported.

Anchorage Assembly Member Christopher Constant pointed to the developments in Fairbanks as a reason why he is skeptical about following a similar process.

“This whole area of conversation I think is highly potentially inflammatory,” he said. “I’ve been following the Fairbanks conversation and it hasn’t been particularly robust or healthy for the community.”

Assembly Member Kameron Perez-Verdia, co-chair of the Public Safety Committee, said members will continue conversations moving forward about what role the public might have in the selection process.

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