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New UAA study reviews officer use of deadly force in Alaska

Published: Apr. 22, 2021 at 5:49 PM AKDT|Updated: Apr. 22, 2021 at 10:21 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - A new report from the Alaska Justice Information Center sheds light on the 92 cases of deadly force used by law enforcement officers around Alaska during the previous decade.

The Alaska Justice Information Center (AJiC) at the University of Alaska Anchorage has released the study “Alaska Police Officer Use of Deadly Force: 2010-2020″.

It reviewed case files from the Alaska Department of Law Office of Special Prosecutions (OSP) involving police officer use of deadly force.

The center said in a Thursday press release that little data existed regarding police use of deadly force until recently. The FBI’s National Use-of-Force data collection has only accepted data since 2019.

“We found that Alaska currently lacks a comprehensive, mandatory data collection on police officer use of deadly force. This gap makes it difficult to understand trends and craft good policy,” Dr. Troy Payne, AJiC director, is quoted as saying in the press release. “What we can tell from the information available is that mental health issues are frequently present among citizens involved in deadly force incidents — finding better methods for earlier interventions and responding to crisis situations should be a priority for the state.”

Over an 11-year span from 2010-2020, the report compiles 92 incidents of officers using deadly use of force that involved 100 citizens and 295 officers. Anchorage had 31 incidents, followed by Fairbanks with 10, Palmer with five, Wasilla with four, and Juneau with three. Overall, 55% of those who had lethal force used against them died.

White people were involved in 55% of the incidents, followed by Alaska Native/American Indian people at 27%. People of unknown race accounted for 8% of the incidents, while Black people made up 6% of incidents and Asian/Pacific Islanders made up the remaining 4%.

Review of the case files revealed several key findings:

The report also focused on the role mental illness in lethal force incidents. It also found that, on average, there were 8.8 incidents of use of deadly force each year in Alaska.

More than two-thirds of incidents involved people with mental or behavioral health issues. One-third of people involved in the incidents told at least one other person that they wanted officers to end their life, according to the press release.

The center recommends Alaska create an up-to-date database that tracks the use of deadly force by officers.

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Editor’s note: This article has been updated to correct a typo in a headline.