by Megan Baldino and Rhonda McBride
Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan says a personnel action has been taken against Fire Chief Mark Hall concerning his actions during a late-night disagreement with a police officer.
Hall and Police Chief Mark Mew have very different views of what happened at about 9:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 30 during a call in progress outside the Hotel Captain Cook.
Hall was caught on tape in a discussion with APD Officer Angelina Fraize, who was called to assist Engine 1 and recorded part of the incident.
“So I guess, Officer Fraize, it's OK that if a citizen tries to help firefighters, for people to spit in their mouth?” Hall said.
“Did I just tell you that you could press charges against her?” Fraize said.
“No, what you said was, ‘What do you want to do?’ And I said, ‘I'd like to talk with you.’ And you said, ‘I don't want to do that,’” Hall said, followed by something unintelligible.
“I did not say that,” Fraize said.
“Yes you did,” Hall said.
Hall admits that he’d been drinking that night.
“I was coming out of the Captain Cook and saw two firefighters wrestling with a woman on the ground -- she was kicking and fighting with firefighters,” Hall said in an interview.
Hall said he tried to help, but the woman spit in his face and upset him. Minutes later, he took issue with the way Fraize handled things.
“And I said, ‘I would like to talk to you first,’” Hall said in Fraize's recording.
“And I said, ‘Go ahead and talk to me,’” Fraize said.
“No, I -- you didn't. You said, ‘What do you want to do here?’” Hall said.
Fraize described Hall’s actions in her police report.
“The male was yelling at me aggressively and walking toward me. The male, later identified as Mark Hall, continued to yell in my direction,” Fraize wrote.
The report continues on to say that Hall “began putting his finger in my face (about 3 inches from the tip of my nose).”
Hall denies that claim.
“I made it a point to keep my hands in my pocket,” Hall said. “I don't know if it’s a lie -- I don't know where it comes from, but can you imagine if I did that to you?”
Hall called Mew at APD to complain, and an internal investigation was done -- one that Mew says cleared Fraize of wrongdoing.
“We did our work, we did a thorough investigation,” Mew said. “Our investigators exonerated our patrol officer. We think her behavior was appropriate, so I back her report and her conduct, and I backed the investigators and their work that led to her exoneration.”
The mayor's office says it opened a personnel action in regards to Hall's conduct.
“One of the things we have advised the chief is that in the future, when you are off duty and there is adequate response from public safety personnel, probably a good situation to be would be to observe,” Sullivan said.
Hall maintains that he acted appropriately.
“No, I don't have any regrets for helping out because someone could've got hurt,” Hall said.
That same night, Hall had also told each AFD crew member on the scene to send him a report about what they witnessed. But it's clear from Fraize’s audio that the captain on duty that night had a problem with Hall's response.
“Why is (Hall) yelling at me because you guys told me to take her out of handcuffs?” Fraize said.
“No, the medic -- that's the medic's decision,” crew member Capt. Mark Stevens responded. “He's got no business running that call; he's out of line, he's drunk.”
“Mark Stevens is a new, young officer and good kid, very conscientious,” Hall said. “Quite frankly, I don't know what was motivating him -- it appears he just trying to smooth things over.”
For now Hall says he wants to move on, and maintains while he was frustrated, he his intentions were in the right place.
“I helped out, that's what I was looking to do,” Hall said. “We are trained to act, and that's what I was wanting to do.”
Sullivan will not say what action was taken against Hall. He says it’s a personnel matter, but that the action was appropriate.
The intoxicated woman involved in the incident visited Hall's office the following Monday to apologize.
Hall’s main point was that he did not want to create any type of division between AFD and APD. He says he knows Fraize had a job to do that night, and he respects what she did.
Both the fire and police unions expressed disappointment over Hall’s actions. They also downplayed concerns that the incident will cause a rift between police and firefighters, citing mutual respect at the rank-and-file level because both groups depend on each other on a daily basis.
Both unions praised the performance of Fraize and the firefighters in question, especially Capt. Mark Stevens, who is heard on tape saying his chief was out of line.
“He was acting in a very professional manner, trying to put a good face on a bad situation there,” said AFD Union President Rod Harris. “We're faced with these types of issues all the time in the public, and to be able to maintain composure like he did, and you know, to be the utmost professional -- it's disappointing to here that anyone would question his actions.”
“She's a professional, and when you're a police officer your work can come under intense scrutiny -- and it looks like this time it will,” said Anchorage Police Department Employees Association President Derek Hsieh.
Both unions say the timing of this incident is bad. With budget cuts looming, morale is already low, especially at AFD. Harris says firefighters are already under a lot of stress, and this latest incident doesn't help.
Contact Megan Baldino at firstname.lastname@example.org and Rhonda McBride at email@example.com