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He might only be chief for 2 months, but Ken McCoy has short and long-term goals for APD

Published: May. 7, 2021 at 4:36 PM AKDT|Updated: May. 10, 2021 at 3:20 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Anchorage Police Department’s acting chief Ken McCoy took the reigns during a turbulent political season in Alaska’s largest city. With voters set to choose a new mayor next week, he might only have the next two months in the job as Anchorage’s top cop.

Mayoral runoff candidate Forrest Dunbar has said he intends to appoint McCoy to the position permanently if elected, while Dave Bronson said, if he wins, McCoy will not automatically get the job.

“I’ve never expected anything to just be given to me. I’ve had to earn everything that I’ve ever achieved, so as with any higher level position, I would expect there to be some type of competitive process to get the best candidate,” McCoy said when asked about Bronson’s remarks.

Whether he’s in his current role for two months or longer, McCoy said trust and transparency are his top priorities for the department.

“I am going to show up and I’m going to do everything I can, in these two months, to make this department better, to make our relationship with the community better, and at the end of the day, I think that’s all I can ask for,” McCoy said during an interview with Alaska’s News Source on Friday. “And so I’m going to continue to do that until I no longer can.”

The department just released data on calls for service for the first quarter of 2021, showing crime in most categories continues to trend downward, something McCoy attributes to the department’s current staffing levels.

“The big takeaway is our patrol staffing, having more officers on patrol in our neighborhoods, helping to keep communities safe, and I think the numbers are reflective of all of those efforts,” McCoy said.

Voters recently approved a big technology purchase for the department that will outfit those officers with body cameras, but the city has yet to develop a body-worn camera policy. In a statement to the public Friday, McCoy promised the community will have an opportunity to weigh in on the policy.

“I made a commitment and a promise to the public that I would always listen and that I would include them in big decisions like implementing a body-worn camera policy in our city, and that’s exactly what I intend to do,” he said. “And so I’m going to invite the public to join me for a community discussion and listening session.”

McCoy said he hopes to host the event at one of the local schools during the week of June 14.

Some community members and groups have already raised concerns about whether APD’s policy will allow the public access to video captured by body cameras in a timely manner.

“That’s a very important question,” McCoy said, “and that’s really what I would like to hear from the public. What is their expectation? What do they expect to have access to from the body-worn camera videos that we will be collecting? And so I definitely want to hear their thoughts on that.”

McCoy’s appointment to acting chief is an historic one, as he is the first African American chief of police in APD’s 100-year history. Even so, as racial tension impacted communities across the country in the wake of George Floyd’s death, McCoy said he found himself needing to sit back, listen and learn, too.

“When I looked at the George Floyd murder, because that’s exactly what it was, I think justice was served in that particular incident,” he said, “However, it highlights the work that still needs to be done.”

In a meeting about public safety last summer, McCoy asserted that systemic racism does not exist within APD.

“That was a conversation that happened very early on, you know, after the George Floyd murder, and so I can tell you, I’ve had so many conversations since then, and every time I’ve had a conversation, it’s truly been a learning experience,” McCoy said. “... We weren’t all speaking the same language early on, and so when I made those initial comments, I was really focused in on, you know, I’m here at this department right now, and if there’s some type of action where an employee has conducted themselves in a manner that was offensive to the community or committed acts of racism, it would be something that would — there would be zero tolerance for it and we would take immediate action and we would address it, and that was the lens I was answering that question from, versus looking at the entirety of the criminal justice system.”

McCoy said conversations he’s had with the community in the last year have had an impact on him, and if he’s in the position of chief in the long term, he would like to revamp department-wide training for officers.

“I’ve seen how powerful those conversations can be in changing hearts and minds, and I think it’s important for our officers to also get to experience that, and so I’m excited to partner with various groups in the community to help revamp that curriculum and to get the community involved in that type of training,” McCoy said.

Copyright 2021 KTUU. All rights reserved.

Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of articles based on a recent interview with Acting Anchorage Police Chief Ken McCoy.