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Anchorage mayor proposes body cameras, significant technology upgrade for APD

(NBC News)
Published: Oct. 7, 2020 at 8:50 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Lack of funding has long been the primary issue cited by the Municipality of Anchorage as the reason Anchorage police officers are not equipped with body-worn cameras, but voters could soon be asked to fund the effort toward increased police accountability.

A proposal to purchase body cameras for the department through a $1.8 million annual bond will be introduced at the next Anchorage Assembly meeting and was discussed Wednesday during a Public Safety Committee meeting.

In June, Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz committed to submitting a proposal to outfit the force with body cameras to the Anchorage Assembly. The pledge came during a time of nationwide protests and unrest following the death of George Floyd, a Black man who was killed by a white police officer in Minneapolis.

“APD is completely open to the idea of body cameras,” Anchorage Police Department Chief Justin Doll said during Wednesday’s meeting. “Generally, they tend to show that our officers are doing the right things for the right reasons, but they definitely help us find those times when maybe they don’t.”

Celeste Hodge Growden, president and CEO of the Alaska Black Caucus, advocated for the implementation of body cameras, acknowledging the move has been talked about for years, saying now it’s time to act.

“Police body cameras improve police accountability and lower reports of police misconduct. They provide visual and audio evidence that can independently verify events. These cameras also protect police officers against false accusations of misconduct. Cameras are a good police reform tool and have strong support from members of the public because again, they offer transparency and accountability, which goes a long way in mending relationships between the police and our community,” she said.

The proposal includes a significant technology upgrade for APD. In addition to body cameras, the bond would fund a lease for digital evidence management, computer-aided dispatch and record-management systems, in-car cameras and other related systems.

“APD favors a single provider solution for all of these systems, since it would drastically improve integration between the various workflows and make employees more efficient, but also offer cost savings as a result of bundling systems together from a single provider,” a memo from Berkowitz reads.

The memo goes on to state many of the systems that would be replaced under the proposal are “well beyond useful life,” and that adding a standalone body-worn camera system would overburden IT staff, lead to system failures and present challenges in providing evidence from the cameras for court processes.

The leasing arrangement has an estimated annual price tag of $2.2 million, but taking into consideration the $360,000 APD currently pays for its computer-aided dispatch and record-management systems, the proposal requests $1.84 million.

Voter approval of the bond proposal would result in an annual individual taxpayer cost of $5.32 per $100,000 of assessed taxable property value.

The committee intends to hold a public hearing on the proposal, with the goal of presenting it to voters during the municipal election in April 2021.

Copyright 2020 KTUU. All rights reserved.

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