APD Bans Officers From Shooting At Moving Vehicles, Most Of The Time

Anchorage Police Department Chief Mark Mew. Photo by Daysha Eaton, KSKA - Anchorage.
Anchorage Police Department Chief Mark Mew. Photo by Daysha Eaton, KSKA – Anchorage.

Anchorage Police announced a new policy on Tuesday aimed at preventing officers from shooting at moving vehicles. A practice that has increased over the past few years.

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There have been 10 officer involved shootings involving moving vehicles over the past decade. That concerns Anchorage Police Department Chief Mark Mew. That’s why, he says, the Department has added a new section to it’s use-of-force policy.

It goes like this: “Unless use of deadly force is otherwise justified, an officer shall not shoot at a moving vehicle if the vehicle being use is being used as the only weapon.”

He says one situation that would justify shooting at a moving vehicle, is if an officer, in the line of duty, found himself in the middle of a drive-by shooting. But otherwise, the policy forbids shooting at vehicles.

The policy is part of a larger plan, Mew says, to prevent officer involved shootings, which have drawn unwanted attention to the force that serves Alaska’s largest city. There were three officer involved shootings with moving vehicles in 2013 and one in 2012.

Mew says, once the trend was identified, leadership researched how other law enforcement agencies around the country have reduced such shootings.

“Certainly we’re seeing a trend of suspect ramming patrol cars and trying to run down officers. That seems new to us. Our officers have been responding in the way that they felt best but we thought it would be better for everybody, for the public generally, for the officers if we retooled a bit and tried to make sure we weren’t in those circumstances anymore and had better tools to deal with them,” Mew said.

Mew says researchers can’t pinpoint exactly why there’s been an increase in such incidents. Earlier this year the APD met with State Troopers and the FBI to discuss how to reduce officer involved shootings.

Mew acknowledged that the new policy came out of those meetings. He says officers have been informed of the policy and, “by and large they we’re on-board.”

He says the overall use-of-force policy is under review and more changes will likely be announced in the fall.

Timeline of APD shootings where officers fired on a moving vehicle in 2013:

  • On 2/19/13 officers attempted to stop a stolen vehicle driven by Carl Bowie III.  Mr. Bowie rammed multiple police vehicles during his attempt to flee, and almost struck a police officer during the incident.  Two officers fired at the suspect vehicle; Mr. Bowie died at the scene.
  • On 2/24/13 Luisa Pedro rammed his vehicle into a police car while officers attempted to apprehend him following a gun brandishing incident.  At one point during the incident an officer fired his weapon; minor injuries were reported, with no fatalities.
  • On 5/11/13 Ryan Portlock was driving a stolen vehicle when he drove the vehicle toward a patrol car, striking it as it pushed past. The suspect then crashed through a fence in order to escape.  At one point during this altercation, two officers fired their service weapons at the vehicle, striking the truck.  There were a total of three occupants of the vehicle.  No one was hit or injured.
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Daysha Eaton is a contributor with the Alaska Public Radio Network.

Daysha Eaton holds a B.A. from Evergreen State College, and a M.A. from the University of Southern California. Daysha got her start in radio at Seattle public radio stations, KPLU and KUOW. Before coming to KBBI, she was the News Director at KYUK in Bethel. She has also worked as the Southcentral Reporter for KSKA in Anchorage.

Daysha's work has appeared on NPR's "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered", PRI's "The World" and "National Native News". She's happy to take assignments, and to get news tips, which are best sent via email.

Daysha became a journalist because she believes in the power of storytelling. Stories connect us and they help us make sense of our world. They shed light on injustice and they comfort us in troubled times. She got into public broadcasting because it seems to fulfill the intention of the 4th Estate and to most effectively apply the freedom of the press granted to us through the Constitution. She feels that public radio has a special way of moving people emotionally through sound, taking them to remote places, introducing them to people they would not otherwise meet and compelling them to think about issues they might ordinarily overlook.

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