Nome officer who pleaded guilty to assault is rehired by police department

A Nome Police Department vehicle. (Photo by Matthew F. Smith, KNOM)

Carl Putman, the former Nome Community Service Officer who pleaded guilty in July to charges of assault while on duty, has been rehired by the Nome Police Department. Putman has been hired on as an emergency hire temporary dispatcher for NPD.

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In April, Putman was charged with assault in the fourth degree in Nome District Court after allegedly punching Florence Habros of Nome while he was on duty.

Putman admitted during investigations that when an intoxicated Habros passed out, he “became frustrated and punched her in the head with a balled fist.” There is no audio of the event, as Putman “claimed he forgot to turn his audio recorder on” when the incident occurred in Front Street in February. In July, Putman pleaded guilty to the charge and received a one-year suspended imposition of sentence, but no jail time or community service.

When asked if NPD was concerned about safety, Nome Police Chief John Papasadora stressed that Putman would have no contact with the public directly in this new role. Papasadora said Putman would “work in the office, not down on the road or doing public contact other than by phone.”  According to City Manager Tom Moran, this was an emergency hire: meaning that the job is not required to be posted to the public and that the position only lasts for up to six months. At any point, the role could be filled by a qualified candidate.

Both Papasadora and Moran confirmed that Putman was hired because he already knew the necessary operating systems. With the department down by four dispatchers, the move was a matter of “business” made to keep the department operating. While Moran was aware of what he called Putman’s “criminal allegations,” he explained that there are no criminal barriers from working dispatch. There have been previous dispatchers with criminal convictions.

But there are Nome citizens who feel that this furthers the distrust between the police department and community members, including Florence Habros, the victim of the assault in February. Habros says she was not notified by the NPD that Putman had been rehired as a dispatcher. She said she would not feel “comfortable” calling dispatch knowing that he could pick up. When asked if she would call the NPD to report a crime, Habros said:

“… (if) he answered, dispatcher, it’s uncomfortable. I would call the troopers, state troopers, I would call them instead. They would help me out,” Habros said.

Habros worries that she is not the only person who has been assaulted by Putman. She claims to have heard that other people have been hurt by him as well. She hopes that if this is true they will come forward.

“I know if we keep this going, maybe they’re going to pop out and tell, too… They would come out and tell the truth of what he did to them,”  Habros said.

Manager Moran said he is aware of how some people in the community feel about this hiring decision. He said, “we do not have the resources, do not have the people available to us; the applicant pool on file may not be the best applicant the public would feel to be the best candidate.”

Putman’s new role does not include any patrol duties or physical contact with the public, and could expire if a more qualified candidate becomes available.