The state mistakenly certified this fired police officer. Now's he's charged with child porn

Published: Aug. 29, 2017 at 4:43 PM AKDT
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A Chickaloon peace officer who was mistakenly awarded a certificate to work in Alaska has now been charged with possession of child pornography, according to court records and a state investigation.

As recently as June, 34-year-old Matthew Schwier served as a uniformed peace officer and tribal justice director for Chickaloon.

Schwier won the job despite a checkered history in law enforcement that included reprimands and accusations of dishonesty at the Phoenix Police Department and his 2009 firing from a small town department in South Dakota.

An Alaska grand jury on Aug. 16 indicted Schwier on three seemingly unrelated counts of possessing child pornography. FBI agents seized digital devices from the longtime police officer’s Wasilla home, finding evidence of “thumbnail images of child pornography showing children as young as three years old engaged in sexual acts,” prosecutors wrote.

Schwier's online history showed numerous searches for illegal images, the charges say.

Even as agents investigated Schwier in the pornography case, a separate state council that oversees the conduct and licensing of police officers began to review his law enforcement history in Alaska.

In a case that reveals potential failures of state and local oversight, the Alaska Police Standards Council made an error in certifying Schwier to work as an Alaska police officer, council director Bob Griffiths concluded in a June 25 report.

“I don’t honestly know what my predecessor was thinking at the time,” Griffiths said in a phone interview today with Channel 2.

Griffiths began investigating Schwier earlier this year when the Nome police chief heard Schwier was still working in Alaska despite being fired from the Nome department in 2012.

“One of the reasons I terminated him is I found out that he failed to disclose information on his (employment paperwork) including the circumstances of his termination in Phoenix,” Nome Police Chief John Papasodora wrote in an email to the standards council.

The chief noted that Schwier had been included on the Arizona “Brady List,” a database of police officers accused of dishonesty on the job.

Griffiths looked into the case and found that former Alaska Police Standards Council director Kelly Alzaharna approved Schwier’s certification to work in Alaska law enforcement May 4, 2015. But Chickaloon is an unincorporated community and not subject to the police council jurisdiction, Griffiths concluded.

“(Schwier) met all of the conditions in training and tenure and all of the other conditions at the time and I think that she issued a certificate without really, shall we say sussing out the legality of whether they were actually a legitimate police department within the state and subject to our authority,” Griffiths said.

Regardless of whether the Chickaloon job had required a state police certificate, Schwier’s troublesome history at departments in Alaska and Outside should have ruled him out for eligibility as a cop, the current director said.

In Phoenix, Schwier was accused of making an unprofessional comment about a female jail detail officer and was believed to have lied during the subsequent investigation, according to the police standards council report.

Schwier later worked in Elk Point, South Dakota, where the city council fired him following a complaint of excessive force. Prosecutors found Schwier should not be charged with a crime in that case -- but that disciplinary action was warranted.

In Nome, Schwier was hired in 2011 and fired less than a year later.

“If we had known any of that information at the time, he would not have been certified,” said Griffiths, the current police standards council director. He said none of the allegations against Schwier’s job performance appear related to the criminal charges he is now facing.

Schwier was scheduled to appear in federal court today in the felony case. KTUU called the Chickaloon Village Traditional Council prior to publication of this story. An employee directed questions about Schwier to Executive Director Gary Hay, who did not immediately return phone calls.