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Detective says FPD Retaliating for Whistleblowing

Courtesy Fairbanks Police Department

A Fairbanks City Police officer is protesting his administrative leave and says the city is retaliating against him for being a whistleblower. Detective Avery Thompson says he has not been told why he is on leave, only that there is a complaint against him. The City is not releasing information about the investigation, saying it is to protect employee privacy.

Avery Thompson has been with Fairbanks Police Department since 2006.

He received a notice last Monday, March 8, that there was a complaint against him of “untruthfulness.” The notice ordered him to turn in his badge, weapon and car, not enter the police station, not identify himself as a cop and not do any police work. He says these measures are drastic, and not normally asked of employees who are on administrative leave.

“My feeling is that I’ve been ostracized from the department. I mean, this is kind of the extreme version of that. Now I can’t even step foot in the department, because they have made an allegation and they won’t tell me what that allegation is.”

Thompson says he has only been told what the complaint against him is, in the most general of terms – and he wants specifics.

“I’ve been sitting here for the past week, what the City is going to actually allege.”

Credit Courtesy City of Fairbanks
Courtesy City of Fairbanks

He says what he perceives as retaliation is rooted in his being a witness for another officer, who complained about sexual discrimination on the job as long ago as 2019. Thompson says she filed a formal complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Office, that investigates civil rights abuses.

“My significant other, who is also a decorated detective within the department, was the victim of sexual discrimination. She filed an EEOC complaint, and I supported her on those charges. It’s a super, super-terrible situation, because I think that I stood up to do the right thing, and the department wants to knock me down, because I spoke out.”

Thompson says since January, he has been excluded from investigations, training, and interagency work with Alaska State Troopers and other local police agencies.

He is working with the Northern Justice project, a private civil rights law firm. Attorney Jim Davis sent the mayor and city council members a letter demanding Thompson’s immediate reinstatement.

Credit Courtesy Northern Justice Project

“We have no idea what the City’s talking about, and they won’t tell Detective Thompson what it is they’re talking about when they allege he is dishonest and have suspended him and taking his badge and his gun.”

The letter said Thompson’s suspension is illegal. Teal Soden, speaking for the City, says the public should know Thompson has not been suspended from his job.

Detective Thompson is on paid administrative leave, not on a suspension, this is an important distinction suspension, according to their union contract that FPD is under is an unpaid disciplinary action. Paid administrative leave, on the other hand, is a provision in the investigative process and is not disciplinary. It is not uncommon for officers to be placed on administrative leave while an investigation takes place.

Yesterday, Thompson says he received an order to not talk about anything he learns during the investigation. So, the circumstances of Thompson’s administrative leave, the perceived retaliation, nor the other officer’s sexual discrimination complaint aren’t public, at least not now. However, federal Equal Employment law protects people from retaliation when they file complaints or are witnesses to discrimination.

“I would love for this entire process to be completely open and transparent. I would sign any documents to make this entire investigation public. I cannot speak to the contents of it. But, I think the community absolutely should expect a per professional police department that is accountable to everybody that they serve.”

An outside investigator has been contracted to look into the situation, and Thompson will likely be interviewed this week.

Soden says the City has a duty to complete any investigations of employees within 45 days.