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APD’s draft body camera policy might not allow for timely release of footage to the public

Published: Jun. 4, 2021 at 12:27 PM AKDT|Updated: Jun. 4, 2021 at 7:12 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Ahead of a community listening session this month, the Anchorage Police Department has released a draft policy for body-worn cameras.

In April, voters approved an annual $1.84 million property tax increase to fund a significant technology upgrade for APD that will also equip officers with body cameras.

APD is hosting an event for the public to weigh in on the department’s body camera policy on June 16. In a community alert Friday, APD announced the draft policy had been posted online for the public to view in advance.

“It was drafted only as a reference for the public to use when developing their input on the official APD policy,” the alert said.

A point of interest in previous public discussions about the policy has been the issue of when the public should have access to the footage. The language in the latest draft, if adopted as the official policy, could prevent the release of body camera footage for years after an event of interest.

“BWC footage that involves pending criminal charges will not be released until the pending charges have been resolved,” the draft policy reads.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska said Friday that the portion of the draft policy is problematic.

“There really needs to be language about when APD will release footage in, you know, instances of use of force. They’re avoiding the issue by lumping all criminal investigations together,” said ACLU of Alaska Spokesperson Megan Edge. “... This policy should not allow the department to withhold footage by claiming because it’s part of an investigation. Releasing body camera footage the right way will not undermine an investigation or due process and it increases public trust. So we weren’t surprised to see that there, but we would like that to change.”

Edge said she believes the policy should also be more specific about when officers are required to turn the body cameras on.

In an April interview, Anchorage Assembly Chair Felix Rivera said he believes in instances of police use-of-force, body camera footage should be made public in a timely manner.

“Justice delayed, right, isn’t justice at all, so the sooner that we can get this footage out to the public when something does happen, then the better, because it alleviates the tension,” Rivera said. “People can see what exactly happened and it eliminates rumors, because that’s all that happens, right, when you don’t release this footage out in a timely manner, it just creates rumors.”

And during an interview last month, Alaska’s News Source asked APD Acting Chief Ken McCoy about concerns raised by community members over 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.”

APD’s public listening session will be held in the auditorium of Bettye Davis East Anchorage High School from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., with the doors opening to the public at 5 p.m.

According to APD’s message to the public on Friday, attendees wishing to speak can sign up when they arrive and speakers will be allowed two minutes to give recommendations to the panel.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated with additional quotes.

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