Big plans for a small town — Moscow Police Chief James Fry celebrates one year as chief


In Moscow Police Chief James Fry’s office, a framed quote, a gift from his mentor and predecessor David Duke, hangs on the wall.

“Some excel because they are destined to,” it reads. “Most excel because they are determined to.”

Fry said excellence is a hard mark to reach, but as chief he works daily to teach the department to strive for it. 

Last spring, Moscow Mayor Bill Lambert selected Fry to fill the role of police chief, and the Moscow City Council affirmed the decision on April 18, 2016. 

The Moscow Police Department (MPD) has five core values with Fry at the forefront — service, pride, integrity, compassion and excellence.

“We take pride in what we do. We take pride in the fact that we do get to serve. We see people at not always their best, but we have the unique opportunity to change lives,” Fry said.

Fry grew up in Council, Idaho, and pursued a criminal justice degree at the University of Idaho. He applied to be a reserve officer in 1993 and was hired as a patrol officer in 1995.

Since then, he worked as a SWAT team member, firearms instructor, taser instructor, bike patrol officer, homicide detective and Campus Captain at UI.

Fry said when he isn’t working, he loves to hunt, fish, go camping, relax out in the woods and spend time with his wife and their four children.

When Fry was the Campus Division Captain, he and Dean of Students Blaine Eckles met at least once a week for Vandal Care sessions.

“We want students to see the police as a resource, as well as to let them know that we have this relationship and officers are available if needed,” Eckles said.

Latah County Prosecuting Attorney Bill Thompson first met Fry 23 years ago, when he was a young reserve officer who was eager to get out and learn.

“I think the city made a wise decision to hire someone like James, who already knows the community and has with the university, the people and the businesses,” Thompson said.

Fry said his connections with the Moscow community help him in his position.

“I’ve been here for a long time, I know what matters to our community,” Fry said.

He said one of the biggest challenges the department faces is making sure everyone stays up to date on training, because funding can be an issue.

Fry said one program he brought as chief is a “Shop with a Cop” event that began last Christmas. He said the MPD got partnered with Walmart, then had about 30 officers go shopping with about 60 children who may not have had a great Christmas otherwise.

“We got to shop with them, then they get to wrap those presents and take them back to their families, so those kids got to experience something pretty good, so that was pretty big,” Fry said.

Fry said he plans on continuing vital existing programs such as Alive at 25 and the Citizen’s Police Academy. In the near future, Fry said he hopes to create a summer bike program for children, continue to educate people in the community and let people know that the police are here to help.

He said one of the department’s strong suits is maintaining the relationships with media, because that is critical when issues in the community, like murders, arise.

Fry worked as a main detective on the Katy Benoit murder case in 2011, and said Moscow is not immune to violence and drug problems. He said they are always looking for new ideas that could possibly stop or prevent crimes.

“There’s always cases that are your bigger cases, that are very sad, very emotional to you as an officer,” Fry said. “But a lot of times, those are the ones that end up being the most satisfying in the end, because you see the effect you have on the families of the victims.”

Diamond Koloski can be reached at or on Twitter @diamond_uidaho

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