SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska



An Open Letter to the Citizens of Ketchikan
By John Maki


June 06, 2006

My Side of the Story.

For many of you it was a shock to see headlines that John Maki, the Deputy Chief of Police for only a year in Ketchikan was placed on paid administrative leave pending the investigation of possible misconduct. But imagine my shock to find out that in the course of two weeks I had apparently changed from Dr. Jeckle to Mr. Hyde.

The letter I received May 11 states I am on leave "pending the internal investigation into complaints received regarding your demeaning and abusive behavior toward subordinates and/or citizens; incompetent performance of assigned duties, jeopardizing officer safety while working or supervising patrol; failing to meet the minimum requirements of an Officer and inability to effectively communicate." News to me .. just two weeks prior I was told by Rich Leipfert that I was doing a great job and there was nothing that I needed to do differently. But for these reasons on May 11 I was told to surrender my badge, ID card and office key. I cannot communicate with anyone in an official capacity in the police department or city, save one even to prepare my defense. From the way I was treated and made sure to collect all my personal items from my office, it appears I will not be coming back. I didn t think one starts with termination and work backwards to find a reason.

The catalyst of this were complaints by an officer who vied for my job and lost out, had to be placed on disciplinary probation by me, and the final straw, not getting his first choice of days off for the first time in a year. Issues were brought up that went as far back as August of 2005, that could have and should have been handled through the city grievance procedures. I finally had a chance to respond to the still generalized complaints and cannot believe that these could possibly lead to termination, especially in light of no verbal or written negative feedback since I started last April. A couple of gems at the hearing:

1. Have you ever performed building maintenance at KPD?

2. Did you write a policy that prohibits officers from being drunk in a public place?

(ah . I plead guilty to both counts)

Of the three written evaluations of my performance I was to receive over my year's service, only one was completed that states in part.

"I am extremely pleased with the work ethic and professionalism that John graces this department. His presence makes a much needed positive impact on the department and community."

I have consistently solicited feedback from my supervisor and to this day have not had one negative comment except for a remark made about a certain letter I sent to the Alcohol Beverage Control Board. As such, after racking my brain, I believe this action is retaliation for that letter I wrote as a private citizen and my activism in pointing out a problem in Ketchikan.

In my prior 32 years of public service I have had a spotless record. For almost 27 years I was a deputy in a large sheriff s office in Colorado working through all divisions and attaining the rank of lieutenant and watch commander taking a total of one sick day off in that time. I spent most of my career as a supervisor assigned to patrol operations with a call load and officers vastly exceeding those of Ketchikan. I was assigned to take over and clean up corruption in a drug enforcement task force and then went on to serve as its commander for four years. I sent a request to the Arapahoe County Sheriff s Office located in Centennial, Colorado that any inquiry about all my personnel records be honored and made available to anyone, the press and city included. For five years I was the director of one of the finest police academies in Colorado where I taught ethics among other legal courses. I am already certified by Alaska Police Standards to teach ethics at the academy !
in Sitka and throughout the State.

I naively thought that part of my job was to identify and address crime and disorder problems, and develop a plan to deal with them in hopes of improving the quality of life in Ketchikan.

From interacting with the youth in the Future Search project Making Ketchikan a Great Place to Live and Come Back to a Youth Initiative , a concern at the top of their chart was problems associated with drugs and alcohol abuse in this community. I have tried to involve myself with adults and with the youth to earn the friendship and respect of both and establish some communication that might lead to trust. Alaska s and Ketchikan s Crime Index is among the highest in the United States with alcohol and drugs a major factor. Did you know that in 2004 (the last year statistics are available) a woman was almost twice as likely to be forcibly raped in Ketchikan than in Detroit, Michigan? A person is more than three times as likely to be the victim of a theft in Ketchikan as in Los Angeles, California.

Shouldn't these problems be of at least equal concern to city and borough officials as expanding docks, building bridges and mold?

Signing as a private citizen, I sent the fore-mentioned letter to the Alcohol Beverage Control Board questioning the need to transfer a liquor license from one establishment to another and I sent copies of that letter to the City Councils of Ketchikan, the Borough and Saxman. The Control Board solicits these comments and there is no need to hide the facts. I pointed out that liquor outlets in Ketchikan vastly exceed the caps placed on per capita establishments by the Alaska Legislature and there are studies that indicate the link between the availability of alcohol and crime. I also discovered that KPD officers spend more time chasing teens with cigarettes, than enforcing the state and municipal laws dealing with liquor establishments responsibilities. (A person can receive a citation for being drunk in a licensed premise, but the bar, bartender or server has almost never been held responsible for getting the person that way). As I have always said, there is nothing wrong with responsible drinking but: Drunk/intoxication = drug overdose = irresponsible drinking.

After a Coast Guarder was severely beaten outside a local drinking establishment, I drafted an information sheet that was distributed to liquor outlets in town, listing the state laws and ordinances and asking them to police themselves more carefully. Within a day or two I heard from an official of State CHARR asking if I were really serious, and if KPD officers were really going to start enforcing especially the strong municipal law passed by your city council at one time.

5.20.030 Not to sell to certain persons. Any selling, serving, or furnishing of beer, wine or hard liquor to a person under the age of nineteen years, or to any habitual drunkard, or to a person who is drunk or intoxicated, or to any person who is noticeably under the influence of intoxicating liquor in any degree, by one person for another shall be deemed a selling, serving, or furnishing by both; and both shall be liable, either jointly or severally, and shall be punished as provided in Section 5.20.140. (Ord. 731 §l, 1970: prior code §2-3) 5/2002

Letters to Sitnews and this informational flyer, I believe, made good sense with points very difficult to argue with. The solution was to silence the messenger and I have no doubt that looking to the enforcement of already existing laws is the real reason I will no longer be working in Ketchikan.

True to what I have heard from another who had been a victim of this city process, an order to terminate is issued from the top and starts with a valid issue that could easily be handled through in place grievance procedures. From there it is embellished with other issues invented. Part of the investigation is to interview as many employees as possible to lend some credibility to the charges (akin to what was practiced in Salem 400 years ago). The intent of the process of a paid Administrative Leave is to cause a weary, frustrated person to look for another job and then resign. It is a formula that has worked well to rid the city of dedicated managers who just don t fit the head manager s mold.

I attempt to follow Christ in my private and professional life. I make no claim to be perfect. I do make mistakes and am man enough to admit and apologize for them. I came to Ketchikan seeing an opportunity to make a difference in a place with a high crime index and a long history of autocratic zero tolerance reactive policing. Believe me, there is a better way and I have seen good movement in that direction.

There are super, dedicated, caring professional officers at KPD who see the need to integrate more in to the community and do real problem solving, and there are others who have considered change and new ideas a threat. There are those who have empathy and compassion and see public servitude as an honor, and then there are those who feel the public should be serving them. I come from a police culture that says there doesn't need to be 3 police cars at the scene of a fender bender accident in a parking lot or that it takes 2 officers to interview a person about a "cold" report.

The loyalty I encourage is that officers and people be true to their values and principles, not to other people. The "I scratch your back, you scratch mine" brand of loyalty breeds corruption. Nazi Germany was built on loyalty and great evil was done to please a tyrant by those willing to sell their souls.

I was told after I had interviewed for this job, There is a lot of politics in Ketchikan. But there is a difference between politics and the corruption of trying to destroy a good cop's career and reputation to silence him.

However, this ends - termination or resignation - Suz and I will be leaving Ketchikan. For there to be any positive change it will have to be a forced resetting of priorities by an educated, concerned and caring public. That usually means removing obstructionists and egotists from their perches.

We truly appreciate all the emails expressing concern and support from the friends we have made.

Thank you for the honor I have had in serving you!!

John Maki
Ketchikan, AK - USA

About: Deputy Chief of Police John Maki is on been on Paid Administrative Leave since May 11, 2006.


Note: Comments published on Viewpoints are the opinions of the writer
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Sitnews.


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