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Police chief says racism isn't tolerated

Megan Holland
"I don't think we have an institutionalized problem," said Police Chief Mark Mew.
ERIK HILL / ANCHORAGE DAILY NEWS
Municipal Attorney Dennis Wheeler addresses the discrimination lawsuit filed against the city by two Anchorage Police Department detectives at a press conference June 30, 2010, at city hall.
ERIK HILL / Anchorage Daily News

Responding to the claims of two veteran detectives who contend the Anchorage Police Department is rife with racism, Police Chief Mark Mew said Wednesday that the force does not tolerate discrimination.

Mew said at a press conference that most of the allegations contained in a lawsuit filed this week by the detectives -- allegations that include claims of racial profiling in traffic stops -- are things that the Anchorage Police Department has already dealt with internally and the incidents have been found to be without merit.

But the two officers, Alvin Kennedy and Eliezer Feliciano, through their attorney Ken Legacki, say not all of the alleged incidents were investigated properly or dealt with through the proper channels, he said.

"My guys will take polygraphs," Legacki said.

The detectives claim in court papers that the department discriminates against minority police officers and members of the public. The suit alleges discrimination in promotions and disciplining within the department.

The suit is seeking at least $100,000 in damages.

"These guys aren't out for blood or money, they just want to make things right," Legacki said.

Mew on Wednesday would not address the specifics of the allegations. He said the department would be responding in court.

When questioned at the press conference about whether there have been similar accusations of racism within the department, he said, "I don't think we have an institutionalized problem."

The lawsuit claims racism at the police department is systemic.

Legacki said there needs to be diversity on the command staff for the higher ranking APD members to understand the problem. "They just don't get it," he said. "It's one thing to say we don't go out and intentionally do things but if you don't understand what you are doing it's another thing."

SULLIVAN STATEMENT

Responding to the lawsuit, Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan said in a written statement: "My administration will work closely with APD to review this issue,"

"While the majority of these allegations predate my and Chief Mew's tenure in office, we as municipal officials remain committed to a positive work environment for all employees," Sullivan said. "Claims of racism are serious, and we will make sure they are thoroughly investigated."

Legacki said those in charge at APD should know about the inner-workings of the department.

"(Mew) should be well aware of what's going on," Legacki said after attending Mew's press conference. "To try plausible deniability I think is disingenuous."

The city will have 20 days to file its response.

Both Kennedy and Feliciano continue to work for APD.

Find Megan Holland online at adn.com/contact/mholland or call 257-4343.


By MEGAN HOLLAND
mholland@adn.com