Anchorage lawmaker says proposed police reform legislation needs to move forward

The exterior of the Alaska State Capitol in Juneau, Alaska.
The exterior of the Alaska State Capitol in Juneau, Alaska.(KTUU)
Published: Jul. 16, 2021 at 6:10 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Motivated by police killings and protests against police brutality across the state and country in the summer of 2020, an Anchorage lawmaker sponsored a legislation package aimed at improving public safety policy in Alaska.

Sen. Elvi Gray-Jackson (D-Anchorage) has filed six bills under the package she calls Turning Pain Into Progress (TPIP).

“Most of them have been heard in at least one committee, so I’m looking forward to next session,” she said during an interview on Friday. “At least one or two or three, maybe all, will make it through the finish line, so to speak.”

According to a January news release about the proposed legislation, the six measures would accomplish the following goals:

  • Ban the use of chokeholds
  • Require de-escalation procedures and provides a duty to intervene by officers that observe other officers violating practice standards
  • Require a peace officer to exhaust all possible alternatives and provide an oral warning before discharging a firearm
  • Ban shooting at moving vehicles
  • Require comprehensive reporting by officers each time they use or threaten to use force, establish a “use of force database” for Alaska Department of Public Safety, Alaska Department of Corrections, municipal officers, and municipal correctional officers, and require those agencies to search the database before employing a new peace officer
  • Require the Department of Public Safety to publish certain policies and procedures on their website

Gray-Jackson said she sought input from several groups when crafting the bills, including the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, Anchorage Police Department Employees Association, Anchorage Police Department and the Public Safety Employees Association. Minority leader Sen. Tom Begich (D-Anchorage) is a cosponsor on the bills.

She also said she was inspired in part to bring the bills forward by the national policing reform campaign 8 Can’t Wait, which advocates police departments across the country implement certain policies in an effort to reduce the number of police killings nationwide.

While the change has not been immediate, she said progress is being made, pointing to the recent success in a several-year effort to outfit Anchorage Police Department officers with body cameras.

“I’m glad our public realized that it was important and approved that bond that it was part of, and then my bills are, if you will, part two of making change in our community in terms of public safety policy change,” said Gray-Jackson.

She urged citizens to weigh in on the bills through public testimony during future hearings.

“If you want to see change in our community, it’s important that you participate because it isn’t going to happen on its own, and it isn’t going to happen just with me bringing bills forward. It’s a community effort,” Gray-Jackson said.

Currently, there is no proposed legislation to make complaints against police officers or law enforcement disciplinary records — both protected as confidential under Alaska law — accessible to the public.

When asked if that is something she is interested in changing, Gray-Jackson said she’s taking her police reform efforts “one step at a time.”

“I want to do everything I can because this is just not about our citizens, it’s also about our public safety officers,” she said. “I want to protect both of them. That’s what this is all about. It’s not a one-sided package of bills. You know, it’s inclusive, turning pain into progress for everybody.”

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