The arrest in July of a Soldotna police officer on assault charges involving a family member has prompted the city’s police department to review the way officers respond to calls involving members of the force.
David Bower, 50, has been on paid leave since the charges were filed more than seven weeks ago, according to the Soldotna Police Department.
Bower was arrested after a family member told Alaska State Troopers that he knocked them down and put them in a headlock, according to a sworn affidavit filed with misdemeanor fourth-degree assault charges. Bower told the investigator — a sergeant assigned to the Alaska Bureau of Investigation, Soldotna Major Crimes Unit — that he was under the influence of alcohol at the time, the affidavit said.
Since 2019, Soldotna police officers responded at least twice to 911 calls from the same address reporting abuse, according to a sworn affidavit signed by troopers Sgt. Austin Mcdonald. Bower was not arrested or charged after either report.
After Bower’s arrest in July, Soldotna police chief Dale “Gene” Meek last month issued a temporary directive that troopers handle any criminal investigations in which a department member is either a victim or a suspect unless there’s an urgent threat of harm.
The department is also conducting a review of the past incidents as well as a larger review of department policies and procedures, Meek said last week.
Soldotna is a small, 14-person agency, which increases the potential for bias, he said. “At face value, there was no wrongdoing. They did the proper procedure at that time.”
The temporary directive will remain in place until any future policies are put into place, Meek said.
Bower has served with the Soldotna police force for about 20 years, he said.
His attorney did not respond to a request for comment this week.
The incident was reported to troopers on July 18, according to the affidavit filed with the complaint. The assault was described as occurring during an ongoing dispute in the home with multiple family members present, the document said. Bower told the investigating trooper that he was slapped, which “provoked an immediate violent response” from him that involved slapping the other person, knocking them to the floor, Mcdonald wrote.
McDonald said in the affidavit that, during the prior 911 call responses at the same address, police officers left the scene “and never created an incident, wrote a narrative, logged notes or logged audio or photo evidence.”
Meek on Thursday, however, said the officers did file reports but they were not immediately visible to Mcdonald due to security protections installed in the department’s report system. Mcdonald was able later to view the reports but the original affidavit had already been filed, Meek said.
An Alaska Department of Public Safety spokesman on Friday confirmed the chief’s account but said that he could not provide specifics due to the ongoing investigation.
Bower after his arrest failed a required breath test for alcohol while out on bail in early August and was charged with violating the terms of his probation, according to a misdemeanor complaint. His attorney told a judge that the reading was caused by mouthwash, according to an account of the hearing in the Peninsula Clarion, which first reported the arrest and the aftermath.
Meek said he couldn’t provide a timeline for the internal investigation underway in the police department.
The temporary directive the police chief issued on Aug. 8 concerns situations where “allegations of criminal misconduct are made concerning a member of the Soldotna Police Department,” according to a copy of the document.
It directs officers to inform the chief and refer the case to the troopers if no urgent threat of harm exists. If a threat of harm exists, the officers are directed to take appropriate action and complete the investigation if an arrest is made. In those cases, the directive instructs, the chief will consult with the Alaska Bureau of Investigations “to determine if further or more extensive follow up” is necessary.