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Unalaska Considers Separating Police Chief Title From Director Of Public Safety

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Berett Wilber/KUCB
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City officials have debated splitting Unalaska’s fire and police divisions for months. Now, they’re also taking a closer look at the Department of Public Safety's director.

Specifically, “the consideration of removing the police chief designation," according to former city manager Nancy Peterson. 

While the Director of Public Safety has served as the police chief for years, Peterson said it’s time to examine whether that’s the most effective system.

If the two jobs were separated, the police chief would no longer outrank the fire chief. They’d be on equal footing, both supervised by the director.

Officials have agreed to wait until the new city manager arrives in March before making any changes. But Vice Mayor Dennis Robinson said he’d support the proposal.

"It’ll make it that much easier to hire a fire chief and replace Mike Holman’s position," said Robinson. "Now, anybody coming into that situation has to look at filling two jobs, and it’s just not fair to the Department of Public Safety. So I’m looking forward to [a change]."

The city will work on replacing retired director Holman after any restructuring is complete, but the department isn’t delaying its search for a new fire chief.

The post has been vacant since late December, when Arlie Colvin was asked to leave after just four months on the job. Earlier, the city hired David "D.J." Dunn, but terminated his contract before it began — following sexual assault charges against him in Illinois.

Despite those struggles, Acting Director Jennifer Shockley said the department isn’t doing anything different in its hiring process.

"We’ve spent some time reviewing — not so much our process, but the elements of the job that we think are most important," said Shockley. "We’re trying to better assess what the needs of the department are — and therefore: What kind of skill set does that require in an applicant?"

Shockley declined to share those priority skills, citing the ongoing vetting process. She said Public Safety is reviewing applicants for fire chief now and looking to schedule interviews soon.

Laura Kraegel reported for KUCB from 2016 until 2020. She was KUCB's news director starting in 2019.
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