Fairbanks police chief reassigned

Posted: Wednesday, July 09, 2003

FAIRBANKS (AP) Police Chief James Welch will keep his badge but not his rank.

Welch announced Tuesday that he had requested and been granted a demotion to sergeant assigned to the detective division.

The decision ends weeks of speculation that Welch might be fired.

Fairbanks Mayor Steve Thompson in December relegated Welch to a second-in-command position, bringing in a former Alaska State Trooper as police department ''director.''

Last week, the city council voted to grant Thompson the right to fire Welch if he chose.

The demotion and uncertainty prompted protests by Welch supporters, including a woman who dumped manure at the feet of Thompson on Monday night at a council meeting.

Welch and the mayor said Tuesday that Welch's request to move down in the ranks was voluntary and not part of a deal with the city. Both also downplayed talk that personal differences had led to the possibility of Welch's firing.

''This was strictly my choice and I think the issues have been overplayed about differences between the mayor and I,'' Welch said.

Thompson told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner that he was considering eliminating Welch's position to save money, not because of problems with Welch.

Welch will fill a vacant position. The job of police chief will be eliminated.

Welch will take a small pay cut, from $38.32 to $36.72 an hour, according to Pat Cole, city administrative services director.

The transfer moves Welch down from second in the police hierarchy to below the department's five lieutenants. There are also four other sergeants in the department.

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