Public voices frustration over development process for APD body camera policy

An Anchorage police badge.
An Anchorage police badge.(KTUU)
Published: Aug. 4, 2021 at 9:39 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Public participation in the development of the Anchorage Police Department body camera policy is waning, with some community members who remain actively engaged now criticizing the process.

During a listening session Wednesday evening hosted by Anchorage’s Public Safety Advisory Commission, which is a volunteer group, less than a dozen community members gave input.

“I’m not very happy with this process,” said Michael Patterson. “I’m a little disappointed because I think the reason why people voted for the body cameras is that it’s supposed to be used for transparency and accountability, but instead APD is writing the rules.”

The department is in the process of adopting a body camera policy after voters approved an annual $1.84 million property tax increase in April to fund the purchase of body cameras as well a significant technology upgrade for APD. A draft policy has been posted online for the public to view since June.

“When we drafted the policy, we intentionally left some language vague in the policy because we knew there was going to be a lot of public interest in certain things,” APD Capt. Sean Case explained Wednesday. “... We knew that the public would give some suggestions that would be helpful in writing the policy.”

Attendance has been lower than expected at public listening sessions. At the first event the department hosted in June, just 19 people spoke publicly about the draft policy.

Andy Erickson, who’s previously spoken publicly about the draft policy, noted the event’s low attendance Wednesday.

“What substantive feedback are you getting here and what members of the public are here that are giving you their thoughts and comments that you haven’t heard before?” he asked.

Members of the advisory commission sought feedback on how to reach more people with information about upcoming events, noting that the board does not have a budget or municipal staff.

“I really do believe that every person’s voice matters and together we can really help create change,” said Emily Edenshaw, who serves on the commission.

Anchorage Assembly members John Weddleton, Felix Rivera and Crystal Kennedy were also present and participated in the discussion.

“Something that the public needs to be really aware of is APD is not doing the policy development in a vacuum,” Kennedy said. “The department of law in the municipality is very involved in this process as well, and there are a lot of legal implications that go along with developing a process that works in the state of Alaska.”

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

Transparency and clarity continue to be points of public concern with the policy in its current form. The police department has said the revised draft policy will be made available to the public when the Anchorage Assembly Public Safety Committee meets on Wednesday, Aug. 11.

A spokesperson for the department said Wednesday that the department has not yet issued a request for proposal to purchase the body cameras.

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