Anchorage Assembly nudges police department to be more forthcoming on body cam rollout

a sign at a rally that reads "APD body cameras now"
A person holds a sign that reads “APD body cameras now” in bold letters at a rally for justice for Bishar Hassan on April 1, 2022, in Anchorage. Hassan was shot and killed by Anchorage Police Department officers three years ago nearby, after he pulled out a BB gun. (Jeff Chen/Alaska Public Media)

The Anchorage Assembly is nudging the Anchorage Police Department again to be more forthcoming about how it will roll out body cameras for its officers. 

The Assembly narrowly passed a resolution on Tuesday with three asks: 

  • One: A clear timetable for the rollout. 
  • Two: Community outreach and education about the cameras. 
  • And three: A policy to automatically release recordings from police shootings and other critical incidents. 

The third ask was controversial. Assembly Member Zac Johnson, a former state trooper, said he’s concerned it sends the message that the Assembly doesn’t trust the police.

“I don’t have a reason to doubt that the chief of police will act in good faith to release footage when it is reasonable and in the public’s interest to do so,” he said. 

Member Felix Rivera said the benefits of releasing recordings aren’t one-sided. 

“This has nothing to do with looking for wrong action or not trusting our officers,” he said. “It has everything to do with public transparency and living up to the intent of the voter-approved tax levy, which was to protect both officers and the public. It has the ability to do both.”

Anchorage voters approved $1.8 million in new taxes to pay for the cameras in 2021. Police Chief Michael Kerle has previously said training and implementation will begin Nov. 13, with “continuous implementation” thereafter. Rivera said he wants an outline of the rest of the implementation timeline. 

The police union and leadership fought over camera policies. In April, the Alaska Black Caucus sued the city over the delay. 

The Assembly had originally considered ordering the changes, but that would further complicate the union bargaining process. So the Assembly ratcheted back its measure to what’s essentially a list of recommendations. 

The measure initially failed Tuesday night to get the seven votes needed to pass; six members voted yes, four voted no and two members were absent. Member Kameron Perez-Verdia later joined the meeting by phone, and asked for a member on the prevailing side of the initial vote for a parliamentary redo, even though it would likely change the outcome.

Johnson said he wanted to respect his colleague and the process, and made the motion for the re-vote, which led to the measure passing 7-5. Assembly members Zac Johnson, Randy Sulte, Kevin Cross, Karen Bronga and Scott Myers voted no.

a portrait of a man outside

Jeremy Hsieh covers Anchorage with an emphasis on housing, homelessness, infrastructure and development. Reach him atjhsieh@alaskapublic.orgor 907-550-8428. Read more about Jeremyhere.

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