Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Anchorage Police to Change Hiring Procedure in Wake of Officer Crimes
Changes to how new officers will be hired will begin with the new police academy in the fall.
On Tuesday, the Alaska Office of Special Prosecutions announced that former Anchorage Police Officer Rafael Mora-Lopez is being charged with one count of unsworn falsification in the first degree for knowingly submitting a false application for a Permanent Fund Dividend.
Mora-Lopez has agreed to repay the state $27,000 he has collected in PFD checks under the false name Rafael Espinoza since 1991.
Mora-Lopez is scheduled to plead guilty to the charge in state court on June 7. He has already pleaded guilty to federal charges for falsifying his identity in order to become an Anchorage police officer.
Mora-Lopez is just the latest former APD officer to be caught breaking the law. Former officer Anthony Rollins was convicted of sexually assaulting multiple women while he was on the job earlier this year.
Both are cases that are weighing heavily on the Anchorage Police Department.
“It has been a rough year, but we have a good organization and we are trying to move forward,” says Anchorage Police Chief Mark Mew.
Moving forward, Mew says the department will take a hard look at its hiring practices to see how Mora-Lopez and former officer Anthony Rollins made it through lie detectors.
“I’m not prepared to say, and I don’t want you to take it that I think our polygraphers had the wrong training,” explains Mew. “But to the extent that we can give them some new training and give them the latest, we want to do that.”
Polygraph training is set to happen the week of June 20. An outside consultant will also be examining Rafael Mora-Lopez's file to see if there was something in it the department may have missed. Department officials will be taking a close look at the files of other officers who left under “unpleasant circumstances.”
“You may look at some other department and say well, they don’t have those problems. Well, maybe they have those problems and you are just not hearing about it, or those problems are tolerated,” says Mew. “So it is a two-edged sword. On one hand, people say they don’t like seeing the fact that these cases exist, and on the other hand, you should be happy you are seeing that they exist because we are dealing with them.”
Changes in how new officers are hired will start with the new police academy in the fall. Mew says the top 50 prospective officers will get the new polygraph tests, and two pairs of eyes will look at each one to make sure nothing is missed.
Mew says they will be treating each prospective police officer like a case that needs to be investigated.