Panel will hear misconduct allegations against Alaska police officers

khopkins@adn.comMay 19, 2013 

A state commission will meet behind closed doors Tuesday in Kenai to decide whether a number of former police officers, troopers and corrections officers should lose their right to wear a badge in Alaska.

Among those under review by the Alaska Police Standards Council are:

• Former Juneau police lieutenant Troy Wilson, who pleaded guilty last month to shooting at officers who responded to a 911 call at his home.

• An ex-probation officer, James Stanton, convicted of threatening inmates and having sex with a prisoner at the Nesbett Courthouse.

• A former North Slope Borough police lieutenant who pleaded no contest to drunken driving in January and an ex-Anchorage police officer charged with felony theft in February.

"We have close to 20 (cases) we're taking a look at this time," said Kelly Alzaharna, director for the quasi-judicial council.

The group includes four Alaska police chiefs, the Corrections Department and Public Safety Department commissioners and four members of the public, among others. Appointed by the governor, it meets twice a year.

Most of the cases under review involve former police officers, corrections officers and Alaska State Troopers who now risk losing their ability to return to law enforcement work in Alaska. In some cases they were arrested in high-profile criminal cases or were fired from their department.

Others are still on the job. The council isn't saying why they are under investigation.

The panel voted last year to consider revoking the license of current Galena Police Chief John Havard and Alaska State Trooper Corp. Joseph Hazelarr, who works at the trooper academy in Sitka, according to minutes of the May and December meetings.

Havard has not publicly said why he is being investigated. He referred questions Friday to his lawyer, Aaron Sperbeck of Anchorage, who said Havard's case was not expected to go before the council at Tuesday's meeting.

"It's set for a hearing later on," he said.

Alzaharna would not say which of the many pending cases the council planned to act on Tuesday. In fact, almost nothing the licensing board does is made public: Only the resulting vote on whether an officer will lose his or her license.

Like a medical board that licenses and regulates doctors, the council awards certification necessary to work in Alaska as a city or village police officer, correctional officer, probation officer and parole officer. The licenses can be revoked if the employee no longer meets minimum standards outlined under state law, Alzaharna said.

Those standards range from whether an employee not considered to be "of good moral character" to whether they have been convicted of a felony or a domestic violence misdemeanor or used illegal drugs.

"It's a very serious thing," said Terry Vrabec, deputy commissioner for the Department of Public Safety. "Sometimes people get themselves into a bad spot."

Vrabec spent six years as director of the standards council. Of the roughly 3,000 active employees licensed by the commission, about 35 to 40 people were reviewed each year, Vrabec said. Some years, no licenses are revoked.

In 2012, six people surrendered their licenses after an investigation began. The council in May voted to revoke the license of former airport police officer Lance Parcell. Parcell has appealed the decision in state court.

Alzaharna would not say why his license was pulled. Parcell declined to comment.

The council voted at the May and December meetings to consider revoking the licenses of another 22 former and current law enforcement workers last year, according to meeting minutes.

One, Steven Much, was an Anchorage police officer from 2004 until his resignation on May 17, 2011, a department spokeswoman said. In February, Much was charged in Anchorage Superior Court with felony theft.

The charges say he stole more than $500 sometime between May and July of 2011.

Much said he did not plan to surrender his license and that the Police Standards Council review of his license has nothing to do with the criminal charge, which he expects to be dismissed.

"I was a police officer for 17 years. I don't steal things," he said.

Much filed an employment dispute lawsuit against the city on Thursday, court records show.

 

Twitter updates: twitter.com/adn_kylehopkins. Call Kyle Hopkins at 257-4334 or email him at khopkins@adn.com.

 

 

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