Chris Ankeny abruptly quit his job as Lewiston police chief Tuesday morning.
The often embattled chief wrote in his letter of resignation that “differences in opinion” with newly hired city manager Alan Nygaard caused his departure. Ankeny said Nygaard’s “actions” left him unable to manage his officers, leaving him uncertain about the future of the department.
Ankeny noted he will pursue “other interests” and intends to retire from law enforcement after serving as top cop for less than three years. His last day is listed as Jan. 30, but Ankeny left Tuesday morning and will not return to the office, according to a city news release. Lt. Joedy Mundell will serve as acting chief until at least Jan. 30.
Nygaard said he has had limited interaction with Ankeny and was shocked by the resignation.
“We really didn’t have a long conversation this morning,” he said. “I will tell you I questioned him, asking if he was sure this is what he wanted to do. I didn’t accept his resignation as a happy event.”
Nygaard said he didn’t confront Ankeny with any large-scale changes to the department and has assured the police department’s command staff he wants to move forward efficiently.
“I haven’t had that many conversations to really have any opinion formed (about him),” Nygaard said. “I would have liked to have gotten to know him better, and I think he did a lot of good things for the department.”
Lewis Clark Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 10 officials declined to comment Tuesday, but said they will likely release a statement today.
Former city council member Jesse Maldonado said he had “differences of opinion” with Ankeny in the past, but that the last six months seemed to move along more smoothly.
“When I was still on the council, I had my run-ins with the chief and had my differences, I would say,” Maldonado said. “He just ran a different ship than people are used to in Lewiston.”
Maldonado said he thinks, in his limited interaction with Nygaard prior to concluding his term as council member, that the new city manager prefers open interaction and all departments to be on the same page.
“He has a sort of groupthink type of leadership. When throwing all ideas around, everyone knows why something is happening. … It could be his management style, in my opinion, did not sit well with the chief,” Maldonado said.
Ankeny did not return calls seeking comment.
Mayor Mike Collins said he’d had no indication Ankeny planned to quit and didn’t know why he resigned.
“I’m sure he’s like any good family man and made a decision that’s best for them,” Collins said.
Ankeny is married and has two sons. He moved to Lewiston from Las Vegas in the summer of 2015 after accepting the job here. He previously worked for the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, concluding his time as captain there after 22 years.
Collins noted the recent hiring of Nygaard coincided with Ankeny’s decision to leave.
“The only thing I’m aware of is this is happening a few weeks since naming our city manager,” Collins said. “I’m excited about Alan (Nygaard) and I support him.”
Collins said the city will begin the hiring process soon.
Ankeny approached the job with an eye to community policing. He acquired a grant to hire a motorcycle officer and most recently two additional officers, including one who will patrol downtown and interact with citizens and a second who will act as a liaison to the homeless. He expanded the department’s online presence, joining Facebook and an online neighborhood watch program called Nextdoor. He helped budget for the purchase of body-worn cameras for all officers and set up a transition to mostly cloud storage for reports and video.
The police chief brought attention to his personal life when he sued Home Depot in October, claiming he fell and was injured because the home improvement company sold him a shelf that couldn’t hold his weight. Ankeny alleged in the suit he suffered broken bones in his arm and injured his back when the shelf collapsed while he was standing on it. The case, assigned to federal court since Home Depot is a nationwide company, is set to go to trial in May with a scheduling conference set for Feb. 28. He is seeking $200,000 in the suit.
Ankeny drew criticism shortly after he took the job when he declined to release the names or any details of two of his officers injured during an accidental shooting incident. The officers recovered from the training accident, but Ankeny refused to elaborate on what happened or how.
He also butted heads with many of Lewiston’s city staff members and administrators, drawing criticism a year into the job for buying an armored vehicle from a government surplus program without first informing the city council. Ankeny wasn’t required to inform the council about the purchase – costs only included a $2,000 shipping fee – but it rankled a few who questioned why a city of about 33,000 needed an armored vehicle. The vehicle was later outfitted with black paint, police decals and other modifications, costing the department $22,200.
In July 2016, Ankeny inserted himself into a debate about the Black Lives Matter movement when a Lewiston resident organized a rally in the valley. Ankeny questioned aloud if the event would draw violence, and he stepped up the police presence at the event. The national movement aims to promote equal treatment of black people by law enforcement and in society. It started following multiple high-profile incidents of police shooting unarmed black men. Ankeny said online hate speech directed at the organizer drew his attention to the local event. He called the demonstration a “noble cause,” but questioned if the rally would jeopardize safety. The rally drew many participants, some in support and some opposed, but ended peacefully.
Ankeny’s LinkedIn profile listed his employment status as retired Tuesday, and his professional bio said he has a record of creating sustainable community policing.
“A skillful communicator committed to inclusion and diversity who has demonstrated ability to build and maintain strong relationships with the community, staff, departmental officers, city leaders and the public,” the bio reads.
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