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Anchorage Assembly vote on use-of-force ordinance postponed indefinitely

Ordinance’s sponsor first motioned to postpone proposal
The Anchorage Assembly meets in the Assembly chambers at the Loussac Library on Aug. 27, 2020.
The Anchorage Assembly meets in the Assembly chambers at the Loussac Library on Aug. 27, 2020.(KTUU)
Published: Aug. 27, 2020 at 6:53 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - In the third-straight night of meetings over agenda items, the Anchorage Assembly officially postponed its vote on a hot-button ordinance regarding the use of force within the Anchorage Police Department.

Representatives for the police department in Anchorage, including Chief Justin Doll, have said that they are “vehemently opposed” to the ordinance, and that the changes as written would make it too difficult for police to do their jobs. Supporters of the ordinance, however, maintain that there needs to be more accountability within the police department, and that the ordinance provides a bit of that.

Before the decision to postpone the vote, several people appeared by phone to testify on AO 2020-80, an ordinance that would amend municipal code to “enact and codify limitations on the Anchorage Police Department’s use of force.”

“The ordinance is a first step toward greater reforms that are needed,” said Dr. Kim Patterson, who testified in favor of passing the ordinance, but only with amendments. “But the ordinance appears a bit arbitrary. In George Floyd’s case, kneeling on his neck wasn’t lethal until it proved deadly.

“But I support this ordinance, as a safeguard to checks and balances,” Patterson said. “Absolute power, without the absolute power of checks and balances, leads to atrocities such as the shooting of Jacob Blake, shot seven times by police in Wisconsin.”

Though many have expressed their opposition to the ordinance outside of Thursday’s meeting, those who called were primarily in support of it.

“These policies are important, because they are not only used to train police,” said Alaska Black Caucus President Celeste Hodge-Growden, also citing the incident involving Blake in Kenosha, Wisc., and in support of the ordinance, “but also used as benchmarks when evaluating whether their use of force is excessive.”

Assembly member and ordinance sponsor Meg Zalatel first motioned to postpone the vote on AO 2020-80, seconded by member Christopher Constant. The motion passed unanimously, with all 11 members voting in favor.

With the indefinite postponement, a specific date for reconsideration was not announced at the meeting. Zalatel said, however, that the Public Safety Advisory Commission would work with APD and the Assembly as well as the new Office of Equity and Justice to examine the community’s “most pressing issues, which include but are in no way limited to accountability of use of force by officers, body cameras, the creation of a citizens’ review board, and the hiring and training of officers.”

Another major topic of discussion was AO 2020-84, which would affect hotel workers and employment in the hospitality industry. About a dozen people testified on the ordinance, with several people submitting comment for either side of the issue.

“The city is overstepping by forcing a union-style collective bargaining agreement to go in place for owners and staff,” said Tammy Griffin, “that have chosen not to be part of a union.”

Marvin Jones said he supports the ordinance and what it could do for employees.

“We need to stabilize the workforce,” he said in part. “Hotels are vital to communities of color. And many hotel workers spend their entire careers serving one hotel for decades.”

The body voted to continue public comment to September 15 in a unanimous decision.

The Assembly on Thursday also approved several other items, including a resolution to name features of the Anchorage Museum at the Rasmuson Center after Patricia B. Wolf. Among her many accolades, Wolf directed the education department for a time before taking over as director of the museum, formed the Anchorage Museum Foundation, organized various exhibitions focused on Alaska Native artists’ work and was inducted into the Alaska Women’s Hall of Fame before her passing in 2019.

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