Top Anchorage police official in negotiations for chief job in New Mexico

nherz@adn.comJanuary 20, 2014 

A top Anchorage Police Department official is in serious discussions with a New Mexico city about a chief of police job there.

Deputy Chief Steve Hebbe said in an interview Monday that he expects a final offer from the city of Farmington, in northwest New Mexico, in the next few days.

Farmington's city manager, Rob Mayes, last week told a local newspaper that he would be offering Hebbe the top job.

Anchorage currently has two deputy chiefs serving directly below Chief Mark Mew. One, Steve Smith, is responsible for the department's operations, while Hebbe is responsible for administration -- which includes police dispatch, evidence and records management, and fiscal and personnel matters.

Hebbe has worked for the Anchorage department for 23 years, and has been a deputy chief for about two years.

He said in an interview that he was interested in an opportunity to lead a department, and, simply, a change.

The Farmington job "just looked like it was an opportunity to go someplace else, and have a fresh challenge," he said.

The department has 135 officers for a city of about 45,000, making it about one-third the size of Anchorage's police force.

But it has some similarities, Hebbe added -- Farmington is a regional hub, and has a sizable Native American community as well.

In a recruiting flyer advertising the open position, the city identified alcohol abuse as one of the most serious challenges facing the new chief.

"DWIs and street inebriates are common," the flyer reads.

Hebbe said he is still analyzing the offer from Farmington, and expects to make a decision by the end of the week.

His requested salary in New Mexico is between $105,000 and $115,000 annually; his current salary is $105,500.

The Anchorage Police Department's public affairs staff referred questions about the impact of Hebbe's prospective departure to Hebbe himself.

He said that if he ends up accepting the Farmington job, Anchorage could return to an organizational structure with one deputy chief -- which the department has used in the past -- or find a replacement.

Derek Hsieh, the president of Anchorage's police union, said the impact on the department if Hebbe left would depend on who takes his place.

"Police service, just like anywhere else -- there's a natural attrition," Hsieh said. "I think that's healthy. And what the organization needs to do is find people to replace them, either from inside or from outside."

Hsieh said he would prefer to see Hebbe's non-union position maintained -- eliminating it, he argued, would increase the workload for the remaining deputy chief, and deprive top police officials with an extra perspective when making difficult decisions.

Reach Nathaniel Herz at nherz@adn.com or 257-4311.

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