Anchorage Police chief says his department is committed to ‘dignity and respect’

Anchorage Police Chief Justin Doll, left, Mayor Ethan Berkowitz and Deputy Chief Kenneth McCoy answered questions about police policies and practices during an online forum.

The Anchorage police chief says his department doesn’t tolerate bad cops. Chief Justin Doll said at a Wednesday night forum that APD officers are taught to intervene if a colleague is out of bounds, and to report fellow officers for any misconduct they witness.

“It’s a fundamental part of our culture at APD,” Doll said. “It’s also part of our policies and procedures, and something we take very seriously.”

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At an online public forum, a theme ran through many of the questions: Is Anchorage plagued by racist policing? How do we avoid becoming the next Minneapolis, the next Louisville, the next Ferguson?

Doll and Deputy Police Chief Kenneth McCoy explained APD’s training and policies, seeking to distinguish their officers from those in other cities who were videotaped killing African-Americans, often after stopping them for minor offenses. 

“One of the core principles of APD is to treat every single person that we have contact with with dignity and respect,” he said.

Doll praised Anchorage protestors for taking to the streets in an organized way as they demanded police reform. The chief, though, rejected several widely discussed reforms. Like shrinking the force to hire more social workers. Doll said Anchorage saw a crime wave from 2016 to 2018, sparking a lot of interest in the size of the police force.

“By and large what we’ve been hearing is the community wants more law enforcement resources available,” he said.

He also defended the practice of assigning police officers to schools. Critics say school resource officers tend to treat black students as criminals. Doll said the primary goal of the program is mentorship.

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“Our officers spend a lot of time doing outreach to the students at the schools, they teach in the classroom. They’re not there in an enforcement capacity,” he said.

And Doll defended qualified immunity, which protects officers from being sued. Doll said police need to know they won’t be held personally liable for every decision they make in tough situations.

The virtual meeting was one in a series APD and Mayor Ethan Berkowitz are planning.

Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Alaska Public Media. She reports from the U.S. Capitol and from Anchorage.

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