3/15/2013 3:44:00 PM Cites Iron Brotherhood controversy Prescott Valley Police Chief Fessler retires
Prescott Valley Police Chief Bill Fessler attends a ceremony on Sept. 11, 2011, at the Civic Center.
Lisa Irish Special to the Tribune
Prescott Valley Police Chief Bill Fessler announced his retirement Friday, effective immediately, in the wake of a Dec. 22, 2012, incident in which a man was reportedly injured at Moctezuma's bar in Prescott.
The man, Justin Stafford, 23, told police he was punched by an Iron Brotherhood biker. Iron Brotherhood is a law enforcement motorcycle club, and, according to several sources, Fessler was president of the Whiskey Row chapter before he stepped down from the organization in late December.
"It has been an honor and privilege to have served the citizens of Prescott Valley and be involved in building a police department over the last 23 years," Fessler said in a written statement. "Because of the controversy associated with the events of Dec. 22, I feel compelled for the good of the agency and the town to take this time to examine my career, and chose to retire from the Town of Prescott Valley.
"I am proud of my service record as a professional police officer with the town."
Fessler did not immediately answer repeated phone calls and emails from The Daily Courier.
Fessler began his career in law enforcement in 1989 as a reserve Phoenix police officer. In 1990, Fessler joined the Prescott Valley Police Department as an officer and worked his way up to interim chief in April 2011 when former Police Chief Jim Maxson retired. Prescott Valley Town Manager Larry Tarkowski appointed Fessler police chief in August 2011.
Fessler served as the Prescott Valley Police Department's operations and field services division commander, criminal investigations detective sergeant, patrol sergeant, and Partners Against Narcotics Trafficking narcotics detective sergeant. Fessler earned an associate's degree from Yavapai College, and graduated from the Federal Bureau of Investigation National Academy.
"We appreciate and thank Chief Fessler for his 23 years of professional police work and his long dedicated service to the community," Tarkowski said. "We wish him and his family well."
When asked if Fessler will receive severance, Tarkowski said he would not, but he'd receive accrued general leave, like any other employee. Fessler earned about $118,000 per year as chief.
"We really appreciate his service. We and his officers respect him," Prescott Valley Mayor Harvey Skoog said. "It's unfortunate that the Iron Brotherhood incident marked an otherwise stellar record."
In the incident at Moctezuma's in Prescott, Fessler told an investigating Prescott police officer that Stafford came up to him, grabbed his Iron Brotherhood vest, "talked trash" and asked him about his patches. Fessler said he replied, "Why are you asking?", then someone grabbed Stafford and took him away. At that point, Fessler said he left the bar, according to the unredacted Prescott police report.
The Arizona Department of Public Safety is expected to release its final report on the incident "by the end of the month," DPS spokesman Bart Graves said Friday.
"We have not conducted an internal investigation, nor do we intend to until the DPS report is out," Tarkowski said.
Prescott Valley Police Commander James Edelstein will become interim police chief at 7 a.m. Monday, March 18, Tarkowski said.
Edelstein has been with the department for nearly 15 years, was sergeant of the Northern Arizona Regional Training Academy, and previously served four years with the Yavapai County Sheriff's Office.
"We will do a nationwide search," Tarkowski said. "The mayor, council and myself will make sure that we select the best candidate, whether it's internal or external."
Tarkowski estimated the search would take as long as six months.
"We'll be looking for a strong leader who has demonstrated capabilities in the law enforcement profession, exhibiting a great deal of professional ethics, who will be able to take this department to the next level over the next decade," Tarkowski said.