Fairbanks will get a new police chief next week. Last night the Fairbanks City Council unanimously endorsed Mayor Jim Matherly’s recommendation for Deputy Chief Eric Jewkes to become the city’s top cop. But, the council also vote down any immediate resolution to an ongoing police contract dispute.
Mayor Jim Matherly underscored the difficulty in deciding between Deputy Police Chief Eric Jewkes and acting police Chief Brad Johnson for the top post. But he advanced Jewkes name to the council for approval. They obliged by unanimously ratifying the mayor’s choice. But before the vote, Jewkes faced questions from several council member. Valarie Therrien asked what he would do to increase the number of women and minority officers. Jewkes responded thata woman joined the force that day.
“I think we’ve been pretty robust in our minority recruitment,” Jewkes said. “And so I think it takes a community effort so that those groups – those female officers, those minority applicants – feel like this is someplace they can come and work.”
Councilwoman Joy Huntington also urged Jewkes to maintain the positive community outreach initiatives his predecessor Randal Aragon set in place. Council member Jerry Norum asked about police morale. Jewkes replied it was improving but there was still the question of the disputed police contract.
On that score December 5, the council voted down two ordinances, one by Therrien and Norum that would have ratified the police union’s contract, and another that would have honored part of the contract, including a salary hike. Both were deemed too pricey and lacked the votes to advance.
However, an ordinance by Joy Huntington to give police bonuses did earn unanimous support. Mayor Matherly said he too backed the initiative saying it would not bind future contract negotiations.
“When I got elected, I really wanted to concentrate on mending some fences with the police department,” Matherly said. “But I do not take lightly, nor does it negate the fact, that the contract needs to be repaired. Mr. Jewkes said it pretty clearly when he was up here, and I take that to heart.”
In the meantime the disputed contract has been appealed to the state supreme court, although a resolution to the case is expected to take months.