Proposed ordinance would codify limits on APD’s use-of-force policies

Some are concerned it could leave APD's policies too inflexible
Published: Aug. 10, 2020 at 10:26 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - A proposed ordinance with the Anchorage Assembly would codify limits on the Anchorage Police Department’s use-of-force policies. Many of those limitations already exist within their procedures, but putting them into municipal law would add a new level of permanence.

The ordinance would put several restrictions on officers' use of firearms, including preventing them from being fired at or from moving vehicles or when bystanders are too close by.

The ordinance's sponsor, Meg Zaletel, declined an interview Monday, but said she stood by comments she made in July.

“I really want this ordinance to be a jumping-off point for a community conversation around what was already in the APD policies and procedures,” she said in a previous interview. “I think we need to remember policies and procedures can be changed, but by putting particular provisions in ordinance it provides more teeth to it.”

While many of the limitations exist in APD procedures already, Anchorage Police Department Employees Association President Jeremy Conkling said many have an exception for extenuating circumstances, which this ordinance could prevent.

“We potentially run into a situation where our officers do something that is within policy, and is within the confines of state and federal law, and it’s the right thing to do, but now they could potentially be charged for a misdemeanor here in the city of Anchorage because of an ordinance like this,” he said.

The ordinance would also introduce some new restrictions, such as a prohibition on sitting, kneeling, or standing on a person, and preventing police from killing animals with a firearm, another thing Conkling raised concerns over.

“If a moose gets struck by a vehicle on the highway, or if we have an aggressive bear who’s entering people’s houses or threatening people, sometimes our only recourse at that point in time is to put the animal down,” he said.

He added he’s not opposed to police reforms but wants to make sure they’re done effectively.

The ordinance is set for public hearing at the Assembly’s next meeting on Aug. 11, but Zaletel said she plans to continue that to the following one on Aug. 25 to allow another round of discussion at the Assembly’s Public Safety Committee meeting on Aug. 12.

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