Police Chief Raymond A. Fjetland, who has held the post longer than anyone in the last two decades, may be on the verge of overstaying his welcome.
Officers complain of overwork and lack of direction, and City Council members have complaints ranging from lack of adequate traffic enforcement to too many officers stuck behind desks.
Fjetland served four years as Pierce County sheriff before taking the city job in 1987.
At the time, the city was just beginning to battle newly arrived youth gangs. Fjetland also inherited a mounting drug problem, faced intense pressure from the powerful police union and worked hard to overcome distrust of the force among many citizens.
No one is calling for Fjetland’s ouster, but “I see the pressure mounting,” council member Steve Kirby said. “It’s getting where we’ve got to do something here.”
Council member Bob Evans said police have ignored the northeastern part of town and done a poor job of enforcing traffic laws and parking codes.
“He hasn’t fought real hard for extra cops,” said council member Dave De Forrest, leader of a campaign to add 40 police officers in the next two years.
In the end, the council funded 20, bringing the total to 378 commissioned officers - 91 more than when he was hired.
Some community leaders say Fjetland may not be the problem.
“I think he’s doing as good a job as he can for having his hands tied by the hierarchy,” said East Side community activist Doug Delin.
Fjetland’s supporters include activists in some of the most crime-ridden neighborhoods.
“I’m very pleased with the chief,” said Darlena Gray, community organizer of the Hilltop Action Coalition. “He’s always been extremely receptive to thoughts and concerns I’ve taken to him.”
“Ray Fjetland is doing nearly an impossible job with too small a budget,” said Adrien Query, public safety chairman for the East Side Neighborhood Council. “The onus needs to be put back where it belongs: The city manager.”
Fjetland, 52, referred questions Friday to his boss, City Manager Ray Corpuz, who said he had no plans to fire the chief.
“I think he’s competent,” Corpuz said. “He doesn’t have the easiest job in the city.”