The Alaska Department of Public Safety has released a draft of its policy for state troopers to wear body-worn cameras, and it’s seeking public input on the proposal.
Public Safety spokesman Austin McDaniel said the department has been pushing for body cameras for troopers for several years. In 2022, the state approved spending $3.6 million to get cameras on state and wildlife troopers, deputy fire marshals and village public safety officers. Another nearly $1 million came from federal grants.
“We view them as a very valuable tool in modern day policing,” McDaniel said about the body cameras. “And it’s been something that the public has brought up pretty regularly over the past several years.”
The seven-page draft policy covers everything from when troopers should turn on the cameras to how and when the footage will be released.
McDaniel said under regular circumstances, the public can ask for footage through a public records request once an investigation or court proceeding has concluded.
“If we have something that’s actively working its way through the Alaska court system or the federal court system, we as the Department of Public Safety really have a responsibility to protect the defendant’s right to a fair trial,” McDaniel said.
But, he said, in incidents like an in-custody death or an officer-involved shooting, the policy allows for the department to release body camera footage to the public before an investigation wraps up.
“We do plan to proactively release body-worn camera footage, personal audio recordings or dashcam video associated with these critical events once those primary criminal interviews have been completed with all involved parties,” he said.
He said the Department of Law has reviewed the draft policy.
The Department of Public Safety is taking public comment on the proposal from Feb. 8 to March 1. It says you can email your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or mail your comments to:
Alaska Department of Public Safety
ATTN: BWC Comments
5700 East Tudor Road
Anchorage, AK 99507.
After comments are taken into account, McDaniel said the state plans to begin a pilot program in the spring to outfit troopers with cameras. In the fall, it will begin deploying cameras to all commissioned and partly-commissioned officers.
Meanwhile in Anchorage, the state’s largest police department is set to enter arbitration with the local police union this spring over a body camera policy. Voters approved the purchase and implementation of body cameras almost two years ago, and some have criticized the department for taking far too long to get cameras on police.