APD leadership weighs in on body camera ordinance, accountability, at a community conversation

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Published: Nov. 30, 2020 at 6:21 AM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Anchorage Police Department leadership weighed in on a proposal to bring body cameras and some other new technologies to the department that could end up on the April ballot Sunday, at a community conversation hosted by the Alaska Black Caucus.

APD Chief Justin Doll said at the conversation the proposal to bring body cameras to the department sees wide support among its leadership and officers.

“As the lead representative of management, I can confidently say that the command staff is very interested in having it, but so are the line-level officers,” he said

In addition to body cameras, the proposal would modernize the department’s evidence management and dispatch systems to help with record-keeping.

“The system we have is frankly antiquated,” Doll said. “It was brought online right after myself and the deputy chiefs were brought online; it came online in about 1997.”

The proposal first needs to pass through the Anchorage Assembly and then the April ballot.

Some at the conversation raised concerns it could have trouble passing because it would create a new tax levy and focuses on more than just the body cameras.

“If it goes on the ballot, voters will have to agree to increase their property taxes by a certain amount in order for this to happen,” said Rex Butler, Co-chair of the Alaska Black Caucus’s Justice committee.

But Doll argued that maintaining the new systems and all of the data that will come along with it, would need to be covered through yearly revenues.

“These systems, whether it’s the computer-aided dispatching and records management system, or the body camera system, it’s not a buy-it-and-done kind of thing, it’s an ongoing annual cost,” he said.

There are still some logistics that haven’t been figured out. The proposal does not list specific vendors for these products, and the department is still figuring out though is the exact policies that would come with the new tech.

“Chief Doll has already given me the task of making sure that we come up with a policy that establishes clear criteria for when officers will activate their cameras and who has access to the video,” said Deputy Chief of Administration Mike Kerle.

The conversation also encompassed topics like police accountability and transparency, as well as the idea of a community oversight or advisory board for the department. On the topic of oversight, Celeste Hodge-Growden, President of the Alaska Black Caucus and Ayyu Qassataq, Vice President & Indigenous Operations Director for the First Alaskans Institute talked about their role in a Founding Committee created by the Anchorage Equal Rights Commission to establish a group, similar to the Anchorage Police Community Relations Task Force, to monitor APD. Qassataq said the final form of that group is still in discussion.

“We are conducting a series of, kind of, information gatherings where we can learn more from our community about what it is that we know needs to happen to improve community and police relations in Anchorage,” she said.

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