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Former Unalaska police chief deemed unfit for new position by union

Former Unalaska Police Chief Jay King took
Courtesy of the City of Prosser
Former Unalaska Police Chief Jay King was sworn in as police chief in Prosser, WA in March, 2023 — ten months later, he's facing accusations of misconduct.

Former Unalaska police chief Jay King has come under fire at his new position as police chief in Prosser, WA. He’s facing accusations of creating a toxic workplace, similar to accusations described in four lawsuits brought against the police department in Unalaska when King was chief.

On Dec. 14, 2023, less than a year after assuming the top cop position, King received a vote of no confidence from Teamsters Local Union No. 839, which represents the Prosser police department,.

“The Union has lost all trust, faith, and confidence in Chief King,” stated a letter obtained by KUCB from the union to the City of Prosser outlining the vote of no confidence.

The union claims three-quarters of police department employees had resigned or sought other jobs since King became chief in March, and says he is to blame.

The reasons for the vote of no confidence are similar to allegations made in several lawsuits made against the Unalaska Department of Public Safety, which accused King of overlooking misconduct and acting aggressively.

The union in Washington accused King of bullying and creating a toxic work environment, thereby turning the department into an “utter laughingstock.”

King declined to comment for this story, stating that he was ordered not to discuss the matter, but a recently retired sergeant from the Washington department, Ed Blackburn, spoke about his time working with King.

“I didn’t have any issues working with him,” Blackburn said.

Blackburn spent about 30 years with the Prosser Police Department, first as a reserve officer, then a full-time officer and sergeant. He said he applied for the police chief role which ultimately went to King in March.

“A lot of his ideas trying to do repairs within the department are exactly the same things I wrote down I would do if I was chief,” Blackburn said. “There’s gonna be differences, nobody’s perfect, no two people are exactly the same, but we couldn’t have gotten any closer on ideas of what needed to change.”

Blackburn declined to specify what exact changes he referred to.

The letter, which was signed by union business agent Jesus Alvarez, Jr., was addressed to Prosser Mayor Gary Vegar Jan. 5, just days after Vegar was sworn in for his first term as the city’s top elected official.

Neither Alvares nor Vegar were immediately available for comment, but a Friday statement from the city confirmed the city received the letter from the teamsters union.

“The City, through the Office of the Mayor, intends to retain a third-party investigation agency to review the concerns brought forward,” the statement said.

City officials did not indicate when the review would take place.

Theo Greenly reports from the Aleutians as a Report for America corps member. He got his start in public radio at KCRW in Santa Monica, California, and has produced radio stories and podcasts for stations around the country.
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