State revokes Skagway police chief’s certification, but he’s still on the job

The old Skagway Police Department. (Emily Files)

Skagway’s longtime police chief is working without state certification. The council that oversees those accreditations revoked Ray Leggett’s certification because, it says, there is substantial doubt that he has ‘good moral character.’ Leggett calls the decision a ‘miscarriage of justice.’

This multi-year saga is outlined in documents from a 2016 hearing in front of an administrative law judge.

It started in 2012, when Ray Leggett found out that his 21-year-old son was under investigation in Haines for credit card fraud.

Leggett’s son has disabilities, including Asperger’s. He had recently moved back in with his parents, and Leggett said one of the conditions of his son staying there was that he had to be honest.

Leggett testifies that part of his parenting approach to encourage honesty was to sometimes use a lie detector test on his son. It’s called a Computer Voice Stress Analysis.

When Leggett learned that his son was accused of a crime, he called then-Haines officer Simon Ford to ask about the case. Leggett identified himself as the parent of the suspect.

Leggett told Ford he planned to conduct a lie detector test on his son and offered to share the results, an offer which Ford accepted. Leggett thought he made it clear that he was doing this for his own benefit to see if his son was obeying the rules of living in the family home.

Leggett’s son denied the crime, and the test indicated he was telling the truth. Leggett told Ford.

All of this made Ford uncomfortable. He called assistant district attorney Amy Paige. That’s how the incident ended up with the Alaska Police Standards Council.

After investigating, the council’s director at the time, Kelly Alzaharna, began the process to revoke Leggett’s Alaska police certification on the grounds that he lacks good moral character. Possessing good moral character is a requirement for certified Alaska police officers.

It was that allegation – that he lacked moral character, that Leggett said made him fight the council.

“I think that is a huge accusation,” Leggett told KHNS. ” I did not do what they said I did and I was willing to fight it until I couldn’t afford to fight anymore.”

How do you define good moral character? That’s where the police standards council and the judge who heard the case disagree.

In 2016, after Leggett had been fighting the council for a couple years, there was a hearing in front of Administrative Law Judge Mark Handley. The judge sided with Leggett. He said Leggett displayed bad judgment, but that doesn’t mean he lacks good moral character. Handley said the evidence does not show that Leggett was trying to improperly influence the investigation.

“It is clear Leggett was doing his best in difficult and unusual circumstances to get his disabled son to act responsibility,” Handley wrote.

But the police standards council doesn’t have to accept the judge’s recommendation. And it didn’t.

In its 20-page final decision, the council says Leggett’s use of the lie detector test showed a profound lack of judgment. It says there are ‘severe’ questions about Leggett’s impartiality and willingness to use his position to benefit a family member.

“I think it’s absolute asinine,” Leggett said.

Leggett is frustrated that the council flouted the third party judge’s recommendation.

“The whole thing is an amazing, in my opinion, it’s a miscarriage of justice,” Leggett said.

At its March meeting, the council voted 10-1 to revoke Leggett’s certification. The revocation became final in June.

But there’s another twist – Leggett can keep working as Skagway’s police chief, even without a certification. Alaska law exempts ‘chief administrative officers’ of police departments from the requirement to hold a state certification.

“Practically, it has no effect on his current position,” Bob Griffiths, the current director of the police standards council, said.

Griffiths said even through the revocation has no practical effect, the council decided to pursue it on principle.

“The council decided that it was important that everyone be held accountable for their actions and meeting their standards regardless of how many stars or stripes they wear on their collar,” Griffiths said. “They are subject to the same standards.”

It’s up to the city of Skagway, not the state, to retain Leggett as chief. As of right now, Skagway’s government has taken no public action to dismiss him.

Mayor Mark Schaefer and Borough Manager Scott Hahn did not return calls for this story by deadline.

Emily Files is a reporter at KHNS in Haines.

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