Bethel police chief resigns after a year and four months, citing ‘internal and external interference’

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Leonard “Pete” Hicks, police chief of Bethel, joined the force on Sept. 12, 2022. Dec. 31, 2023 will be his last day.

Hicks submitted his resignation to the Bethel Human Resources department on Wednesday. In it, he said that he felt there was not much more he could do: “Both internal and external interference and challenges have hindered my ability to enforce and maintain discipline within the department.”

From Trussville, Ala. last year to Bethel, Alaska, Hicks has a 20+-year law enforcement background and is a military veteran. He has a bachelor’s degree in homeland security, law enforcement, firefighting, and related protective services. He is a graduate of the FBI National Academy.

Hicks had served as lieutenant and chief investigator in the Criminal Investigations Division for the Moody Police Department in Moody, Ala. When he accepted the offer to lead the Bethel Police Department, the position had been vacant for several months year after the resignation of Police Chief Richard Simmons, a 25-year law enforcement officer who had moved from Fort Worth, Texas but lasted less than two years in Bethel.

Hicks was offered $130,786 and a $10,000 relocation budget when he accepted the job. His predecessor, Chief Simmons, was offered a $140,000 starting salary.

The job has not been posted at the City of Bethel’s website as of Saturday, Dec. 9. Lt. Jesse Poole served as interim chief between Simmons and Hicks, and will serve in that role again until a new chief is hired, which may take several months.

“I’ve enjoyed the community,” Hicks told a KYUK reporter. “I like the community. But I feel like I’ve reached a point where there’s just not much more I can do, and it will just probably be in everybody’s best interest at this point just to move on and let somebody else try.”

Bethel, located on the Kuskokwim River about 40 miles from the Bering Sea and 400 air miles from Anchorage, is a commercial hub and port for the entire Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta area of Alaska, and serves as a tribal hub. Bethel, with a population of about 6,300, is comprised of 83.3% Alaska Native (mainly Yupik).

During the Covid-19 panic of 2020 and 2021, city officials mandated that all municipal employees get Covid vaccines. About half of the police force refused. Chief Simmons, who left shortly after that forced vaccine dispute, has described Bethel as “one of the most violent communities in the nation.

His claim is backed up by a report from 247Wall Street, which said in 2020 that violent crime rate in Bethel ranks as the highest of the 12 cities in Alaska that are home to at least 5,000 people for which the FBI has data.

27 COMMENTS

  1. Well, I completely understand why he is leaving. I am trying to choose my words carefully. God knows I don’t want to be labeled a racist 🙄The Alaska native villages are not easy to get along in. My ex-husband was a bush pilot in the 80’s and lived in Sleetnute. I worked for the Anchorage Campfire Before and After School program. In the summer we would send our councilors to the villages to teach the kids how to swim. The reasons for the swimming lessons were to keep the children safe. A lot of village parents often neglected their kids and the drowning statistics were very high! The villages were really difficult to work in because the parents refused to get involved with the program. For safety reasons, we made sure to always have two counselors on the job. Never just women. There had to be at least one male counselor there with the female. So, the treatment of nonnative people could be harsh. I wish him good luck as he moves on.

  2. When I worked in Bethel in the 70’s a lot of the Natives detested Blacks, I don’t know if that has changed in the years since I was out there. I wish the Man all the best & with His Credentials I would think He would be in demand anywhere in the State.

    • You’ll still find more racism in Western Alaska than probably anywhere in the nation.

      Natives v. white folk, Eskimo v. Athabascan, Yupik v. Inupiat, native Alaskan v. Outside Indian (probably the most violent and virulent), Aleut v. Everyone, etc.

      If you listen to Democrats they’d have you believe that racism was a Southern invention or import…no no no, folks been hating each out there for centuries.

  3. (Bethel or anywhere), Alaska is not for everyone. When recognized the sooner one removes oneself and loved ones from spiritual harm the less damage to one’s soul one will be stuck repairing exhaustingly for the rest of one’s life. One assumes a certain basic level of western civility exists. I mean this profoundly. That assumption is practically refutable. To save the shards of one’s own civility; unapologetically leave quickly, Go where you are treated best and where you can flourish. Travel the King’s Highway which has been your continental right since the Charter of Jamestown in the 1600’s and continues unrevoked to this day and written into pertinent international treaties.

  4. Furthermore, the King of England’s contact with Jamestown remains in tact. Who is authorized to regulate the King? PM Trudeau? Does he claim fervent equivalency? No, I’m not seeing that. He is grateful for even invites to royal events. How about an AK governor? Is he delegated authority to tamper with the Continental Treaty or Charter of Jamestown.? No? How about an incredibly beautiful, lithe, youthful unelected health director/debutant descendant of renowned students of eugenics public? Does she secretly have expressed authority to regulate international treaties? Where did we the people give her informed consent to tamper with travel rights treaties? Oh, it doesn’t exist? That is correct. Is it a felony to tamper without express authority with unrevoked treaties? Who has the cahones to secure US Constitutional rights? The deputized Marines and National Guard? Perhaps.

  5. Ohhhh…. Let me think about this for a minute… Thank you Chief Hicks for trying to grab the bull by the horns, but Bethel City Council has been rudderless for almost a decade. Bethel like Anchorage has a council that comes from the nonprofit sector, thinks all liberal causes should be paid for with excessive taxes, which only beget higher costs of living. They long ago decided Cops like Doctors at the Hospital should have North Slope schedules and forgo raising families in the worst school district in Alaska . The former gay Mayor, married to the Doctor in charge of all things covid on the UK, ran and still runs a nonprofit that gobbled stimulus money and rented apartments to the transient City Cops, along with running off a lot of the best city employees they had. Instead of using her foundations City Contract money for salary increases for cops while she was Mayor, she steered grants and stimulus money towards building a huge homeless center, which generates more free money, higher staff salaries and all the crack, heroin and alcoholics from nearly 60 villages.

    The Chief never had a chance. The City has had too resort to counting on the legal system, which has Public Defenders working on permits for a year, while they try and pass the Alaska Bar exam……

    In the mean time the City Council funds a swimming pool that loses close to $2 Million a year, yet has the high distinction of being a recruiting tool for the hospital and the school district, both of which pay for their employees to enjoy. The rest of Bethel…. most are lucky to pay their bills, never mind afford to take the kids to the nonprofit country club….

    Happily Nirro fiddles while Bethel burns. Come January 1st, Bethel gets it’s 10th annual installment of a 5% water/sewer increase in the most expensive community to take a morning dump, in America. Literally.

    Again, thank you Chief Hicks, but you can’t beat a Council of liberals licking their lips and waiting for the next dimwit handout for losers in control.

    Yup, Bethel, Anchorage, school boards or Councils, no damn difference. City council

    • Agree! The “leaders” in Bethel know how to play the system and run with the “best” of them (Murkowski, Peltola and a bunch of thugs from the Big House).

    • This is what government looks like in Alaska today. It’s racist (against whites), excessive, exceedingly wasteful, and dishonest. It takes from our economy and holds the economy back. Young people who have a work ethic tend to leave: Others go to work for government or for nonprofits.

    • Excellent comparison Willy, as I began to read the article, the Anchorage Assembly along with Anchorage School district immediately came into my focus, along with the bogus witch hunt ongoing against Mayor Bronson!

  6. Sadly Bethel is not the only village with these issues. I know of others with the exact same working conditions when hiring outside of the village for these important positions. The local politics get in the way of anyone trying to correct what has been going on for decades.

  7. Well. Working in a Region where majority of its people follow a religion or culture instead of God will only discourage. One will have to be anchored securely on God’s Word before entering such a region as Southwest Alaska. Just my doing a quick search out Bethel Churches after reading Jkirk’s family experience cause I was curious how some dominate Native places are a great experience like Unalakleet compared to other Native places as Bethel are worse. While Unalakleet been better trained in the Christian walk, I judge Bethel looks like it don’t know the Bible just as the rest of the region because 16 out of their 18 churches are heavy on religion instead of learning about Jesus, the Bible, His Spirit, fallen angels, prophecy, Isreal, end times, and God.

    You know what I like to see is Jesus using non native Christians leaders whom are humble enough to work the field to know when to step out of the wat when there are indigenous born men ready to work and serve. They would have to make Native disciples and to find and train up indigenous GenZ young men who feel the call, they know they have the God-led call, and burden to become pastors for their grandparents villages.

    • It amazes me how you insist on commenting when you have less than zero understanding of the people or situation involved.

      • Jen is right about Unalakleet. The Covenant church established there did a great job of introducing Christianity & it really shows by the character of the people in that village. Less drugs, corruption, alcohol, crime etc etc. There are other small villages similar to UNK, for the same reason.
        Interestingly if you read the history, the shaman in UNK wanted the original Christian missionary gone & plotted w/ others to kill him. A Native man tipped off the pastor & his life was saved, as was the rest of Unalakleet actually.

  8. The anachronism of having adults in most Alaska villages and small towns contributing little or nothing to local government services, including law enforcement and education, has to be abolished. Every town and village needs to have a property tax for residential and commercial property. Our petroleum era could end at any time, and it’s now only twenty to twenty-five percent of what it once was. But while petroleum production dropped precipitously our population doubled. Now the communists among us, including those who meet in Juneau, beginning again in January, demand an income tax, but they do so without even suggesting that everyone make the same or a similar contribution to local government services. We who pay for our own local government services already contribute a major portion of what would otherwise be the statutory PFD so that many Alaskans can receive local government services for free. I will not pay for local government services through my property taxes ($7,000 a year for a small and modest house on a postage-stamp sized lot) and 5 percent sales tax, to then pay an income tax so that so many Alaskans can continue to contribute nothing, or just about nothing, for their own local government! And please stop sending your communists to Juneau, we already have enough of our own.

  9. Thing is, salaried at $130k/yr isn’t big money out there.

    Remember, Uncle Sam will tax that $130k/yr for a Bethel resident the same as $130k/yr for a Omaha or Abilene resident.

    Plus, unless you have the benefits of subsidized housing, subsidized heating, free medical, and Questcard grocery benefits (food stamps), $130k/yr isn’t prospering. It’s definitely not like making $130k/yr in Palmer or Kenai.

    It’s not poverty by any means, but paying over $7 for a carton of milk and $6 for a loaf of bread adds up in a hurry.

    Remember that’s a salary, not a wage. No overtime no matter how many hours you put in.

    Good for him, he sought an adventure, found a challenge, and no doubt grew from it.

  10. Took a high paying job in the Middle East years ago. No matter how professional you may be, it is hard to work when the general population hates your guts, and for no good reason. Despite high offers to extend my contract, I left after a year and my only regret was that I would never get that year back, and the damage it did to my heart. I wish him the best, and hope he has at least a few good memories from Alaska.

  11. My personal opinion on Bethel and its obvious problem is………..who cares? It’s too bad Chiefs Simmons and Hicks had to go through that to learn, but that’s the way of todays world. AFAIC, Bethel is a more miserable version of Detroit, both places to avoid like venomous serpents. There will be no salvation there, so simply avoiding the place is the wise move.

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