Sitka Police Chief Jeff Ankerfelt (right) was named to the Alaska Marijuana Control Board on May 24. Ankerfelt is the subject of a lawsuit filed this week against the department by current officer Ryan Silva. (Courtesy Photo | Sitka Police Department)

Sitka Police Chief Jeff Ankerfelt (right) was named to the Alaska Marijuana Control Board on May 24. Ankerfelt is the subject of a lawsuit filed this week against the department by current officer Ryan Silva. (Courtesy Photo | Sitka Police Department)

Sitka officer files lawsuit alleging police department punished him for speaking out

Legal complaint lists secret purchase of automatic weapons, cover-up of assault, harassment

A Sitka police officer filed a lawsuit against the City of Sitka and the Sitka Police Department this week, making a variety of claims that include covering up a sexual assault, secretly purchasing automatic weapons and discrimination against him personally for supporting a co-worker who alleges sexual harassment.

Ryan Silva, who began working for SPD in 2008, filed the lawsuit through the Northern Justice Project, LLC, a firm that specializing in representing low- and middle-income Alaskans in lawsuits against state and federal governments.

In a legal complaint filed Aug. 20, Attorney James J. Davis states that Silva is entitled to damages because SPD violated Alaska Statue 39.90.100-39.90.150, known as the Alaska Whistleblower Act. This act states that public employers cannot discriminate or punish an employee for reporting a matter of public concern. In this case, Davis alleges, Silva was punished for reporting the secret purchase of five automatic weapons and for aiding in the investigation of sexual harassment allegations against the department from Silva’s significant other, Mary Ferguson (another officer in the department).

SPD Lt. Lance Ewers, according to the complaint, convinced the department to purchase five automatic weapons in November 2017, despite there being no existing policies and procedures concerning the use of automatic weapons. Silva was worried about this purchase and thought it put the public at risk, according to the complaint, but his concerns were met by Ankerfelt telling Silva to keep the purchases a secret.

Ewers, according to the complaint, is a friend of Ankerfelt’s and is named multiple times as working with Ankerfelt to discriminate against Silva.

Silva is still employed by the department, City and Borough of Sitka Community Affairs Director Maegan Bosak said by phone Friday. Silva is currently on administrative leave, she said. Bosak also read a statement from the city.

“There’s currently an ongoing investigation into allegations brought forward by Ryan Silva in his recently filed complaint,” Bosak said. “We take these allegations very seriously and will defend as appropriate. The Sitka Police Department’s continued focus will be on the mission of preserving and protecting the life, peace and property of the citizens of Sitka.”

Allegations in the complaint are wide-ranging, including one story from Silva about an instance in June when he was taken off a sexual assault investigation because the suspect in the case was friends with Ewers and the department didn’t want to “muddy” the name of the suspect.

• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.

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