Alaska State Troopers and other state public safety officials will soon begin wearing body cameras.
The state Department of Public Safety released its final body-worn camera policy on Monday. Department spokesman Austin McDaniel said 30 officers have already been equipped with cameras.
“These troopers and officers can provide us feedback on the policy, the technologies, some of the logistics concerns,” McDaniel said, “to make sure we have everything in place before we go and issue out cameras to every state trooper, every wildlife trooper, every court services officer, deputy fire marshal and village public safety officer that’s working throughout the state.”
McDaniel said the initial camera rollout is happening in Interior and Southcentral Alaska, down to the Kenai Peninsula, as well as in Southeast and in Kodiak. He said the department aims to get all troopers equipped by the end of the year.
A draft of the policy was released in February for public comment. McDaniel said the nine-page final policy did not change much, and there is still a requirement that troopers keep the cameras on at all times while dealing with the public, except during specific circumstances.
“Troopers will still be expected to activate their body-worn camera once they’re issued one,” McDaniel said, “in the same manner that they activate their dash camera system today, or a personal audio recorder.”
The policy allows for the public to get access to camera footage through a records request. The public safety department can also preemptively release footage of critical incidents like trooper shootings before investigations have completed.
McDaniel said the state hopes the cameras will help complement existing police work and build community trust.
“We do believe these are going to enhance our investigations,” McDaniel said. “These are going to keep our officers safe. These are going to really help us with better prosecutions. And increase the transparency the public has, and continue to bolster the trust that the public has in the state troopers.”
The cameras are being paid for using about $3.6 million from the state and another roughly million dollars in federal grants.
Meanwhile, there is still no timeline for when the Anchorage Police Department – the state’s largest law enforcement agency – will outfit its officers with body-worn cameras, more than two years after voters approved them. Last month, the city’s chief of police announced the department would go forward with implementing the cameras while negotiations with the police officers’ union continue.