Kodiak police focusing on better training following Pletnikoff incident

The Kodiak Police Department is working to improve its staff’s sensitivity towards people with special needs. That includes new approaches to identifying members of the community affected by autism.

The change comes after an incident in September where three police officers used excessive force in subduing an autistic young man, Nick Pletnikoff, originally accused of trying to enter a vehicle by force.

At the Kodiak City Council work session last night, Chief of Police Ronda Wallace presented an overview of the Kodiak Police Department, after which she responded to questions – including this one from Mayor Pat Branson.

“I know the September 16 incident – that new training procedures have been put into place and that’s been publicly stated, but could you go over that for us again as to what kind of training measures have been put into place since that incident?” Branson asked.

Wallace said Kodiak police officers would receive extra training which will give them the tools to recognize individuals with autism and described a KPD initiative which will support that effort.

“I’m working on what we’ll call our Kodiak Cares Program,” Wallace said. “That will be a volunteer program with the special needs community where we have questionnaires that could be filled out on a volunteer basis to provide us with the information about somebody’s loved one, their child, or a vulnerable adult.”

She said they’ll put that information into the KPD system and only law enforcement and dispatchers will be able to access it.

“Additionally, there are photos taken that go along with those forms,” Wallace said. “That gets put into the system and a booklet gets built for officers with pictures and names, so if they encounter individuals out in the street and they recognize them, they can contact dispatch, dispatch can relay some of the information that may be on the forms about triggers for individuals.”

She said that will better prepare officers to assist them.

“We’re working on those things. It’s a process and it’s gonna take us a little bit of time, but in that time we’re getting the officers additional online training,” she said. “Been in contact with Krista McGuyer at Special Services from the high school who’s offered her services in bringing this training to our department. So, we’re working real hard on that.”

In addition to hearing from the Kodiak Police Department – and alongside other items on the agenda – the council discussed extending its contract with the fisheries analyst it shares with the borough.

Kayla Deroches is a reporter at KMXT in Kodiak.

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