Soldotna Police Officer David Bower, right, sits with his lawyer, Andy Pevehouse, during a bail hearing at the Kenai Courthouse in Kenai, Alaska, on Aug. 16, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna Police Officer David Bower, right, sits with his lawyer, Andy Pevehouse, during a bail hearing at the Kenai Courthouse in Kenai, Alaska, on Aug. 16, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna police reviewing policies after officer’s arrest

The officer was arrested on a fourth-degree domestic violence assault charge

Roughly one month after one of its officers was arrested on a fourth-degree domestic violence assault charge, the Soldotna Police Department says it’s reviewing the policies that outline how it handles reports of officer misconduct.

David M. Bower, 50, a Soldotna police officer since 2004, was arrested in late July after the Alaska Bureau of Investigation’s Soldotna Major Crimes Unit determined that Bower had assaulted a family member. Alaska State Trooper Sgt. A. Macdonald wrote in a July 19 affidavit that Bower admitted to being under the influence of alcohol at the time of the alleged assault.

According to the affidavit, the complainant described being “knocked … to the ground” by Bower and then alleges Bower got them “in a headlock with his arm over my mouth.” The same document says Bower said that the complainant’s slap “provoked an immediate violent response” from him.

Macdonald wrote in the affidavit that at least two prior 911 calls had been made reporting domestic abuse by Bower since 2019. Per the Alaska State Troopers, investigators arrested Bower on July 19 without incident and he was taken to Wildwood Pretrial Facility on one count of assault in the fourth degree.

Just over one month later, the head of the Soldotna Police Department says it is reviewing its policies in response to the incident. Soldotna Police Chief Dale “Gene” Meek said via email on Thursday that he issued a temporary directive for the department while its existing policies undergo review.

That directive newly instructs Soldotna police officers responding to a criminal complaint involving another officer to refer those cases to either the Alaska State Troopers or the Alaska Bureau of Investigation, unless the situation requires immediate action.

Under the department’s existing policy, calls of suspected misconduct against an officer are investigated by a department supervisor. The police chief is to be notified if the suspected misconduct involves a criminal violation and is tasked with ensuring the supervisor’s investigation was conducted appropriately.

Meek said that the previous reports against Bower were reviewed by the department’s previous police chief, Peter Mlynarik. Mlynarik left the department in January 2022.

Although the Alaska Bureau of Investigation wrote in charging documents that no reports were generated by the Soldotna Police Department during the two previous calls to Bower’s residence, a Clarion request for copies of all Soldotna Police Department reports involving Bower returned two reports: one from 2019 and one from 2020.

In both cases, officers responded to Bower’s residence after receiving reports of a disturbance. Both times, officers reported that Bower “smelled of alcohol and admitted to drinking” or “appeared to be intoxicated.” In both cases, officers reported that both Bower and his wife denied that a physical altercation had occurred.

In 2019, Soldotna police officers Tobin Brennan and Ian Koenig, along with a third officer identified in the report as “O’Connor,” responded to a disturbance at Bower’s residence reported by a complainant who said they had seen Bower “get physical” in the past. Both Bower and his wife, who at the time also worked at the Soldotna Police Department, denied that a physical altercation had occurred.

“As no assault was reported and (redacted) did not see an assault occur no further action was taken,” Brennan wrote.

Koenig reported a similar conclusion.

“From the interviews conducted, nothing criminal had occurred,” Koenig wrote. “I cleared the call and returned to the police department.”

Officers again responded to Bower’s home in April 2020 after a disturbance was called in. According to reports written by officers Brennan and Stace Escott, both Bower and his wife said they had been arguing but told officers no physical altercation had occurred.

Escott wrote in his report that, during that response, he twice turned off his personal recording device while at the Bower home, first at the request of Bower and again after his investigation had concluded. After Escott turned his recording device off at Bower’s request, Bower asked Escott why the police had responded to this residence.

“I told David I needed to turn my recorder back on, which I did, and told him we had received a third-party report of a disturbance,” Escott wrote.

Meek said Thursday that the Soldotna Police Department’s existing policies allow officers to turn off their body cameras while privately conferring with each other or with personnel from other agencies, then turn the camera back on when that conversation is over.

When asked whether that policy applies when another police officer is the party being investigated, Meek said that question is part of the department’s policy review.

More generally, Meek said all officers are required to complete annually a minimum of two hours of training related to domestic violence. This year, Meek said, the training was four hours long and conducted by a specialist on Alaska’s domestic violence laws.

Further, Meek said Soldotna officers have access to the city’s employee assistance program, an intervention program meant to assist employees with personal problems affecting their work performance.

Soldotna City Manager Janette Bower said Thursday that the city’s investigation into Bower is still in process. Following his arrest, Bower was placed on administrative leave pending investigations by both the City of Soldotna and the Alaska Bureau of Investigation.

Janette Bower is not related to Soldotna Police Officer David Bower. Janette Bower’s husband, also named David Bower, works for the Alaska State Troopers.

Bower, who was arrested on July 18, made bail earlier this month, as part of which he paid a $1,500 performance bond and was placed on electronic alcohol monitoring at the discretion of the Pretrial Enforcement Division. Bower was also ordered not to contact the complainant and to not possess “any deadly weapons” on his person, at his residence or in his vehicle.

Bower’s attorney, Andy Pevehouse, has argued during bail hearings that Bower is being treated differently than other defendants facing similar charges. Pevehouse asked during bail hearings held this month that Bower be taken off electronic alcohol monitoring and be allowed to regain possession of his firearms, adding that Bower has already paid a “massive” performance bond.

In a subsequent bail hearing on Aug. 16, Pevehouse reiterated that Bower, who doesn’t have a criminal record, is “being treated a little differently than most defendants charged with a simple assault.” Further, Pevehouse said Bower’s “promise not to drink should be sufficient.”

In an Aug. 21 update to his case, Bower was charged with a class B misdemeanor for violating his conditions of release after testing positive for alcohol consumption. Pretrial Officer Michael Tallent wrote in the complaint that Bower blew a positive result and was arrested in Anchorage.

Pevehouse during the Aug. 8 hearing said Bower blew a false positive because the test was conducted after he’d used mouthwash, according to log notes.

Magistrate Judge Kimberley Sweet upheld Bower’s alcohol electronic monitoring.

“All of us need some form of accountability,” Sweet said. “This is the first step in that.”

Pevehouse did not respond to requests for comment on Thursday. Bower’s next court appearance is scheduled for Sept 21.

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com.

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