Alaska Black Caucus sues Anchorage over police body cam delays

Suit filed by Northern Justice Project claims “excuses ... do not pass the straight-faced test”
Alaska Black Caucus sues Anchorage over police body cam delays
Published: Apr. 19, 2023 at 10:14 AM AKDT|Updated: Apr. 19, 2023 at 1:56 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Alaska Black Caucus sued the Municipality of Anchorage on Wednesday over delays in implementing body cameras to be worn by police officers.

More than two years have passed since Anchorage residents voted to fund body cameras for the Anchorage Police Department — and with yet another delay in the implementation of the policy, litigation has now been filed.

“We’re just so frustrated, we’re tired of broken promises for two years,” co-chair of the Alaska Black Caucus Justice Committee Rich Curtner said.

The suit was filed by the Northern Justice Project in Alaska Superior Court on behalf of the ABC and accuses the municipality of thwarting the will of the voters who elected to implement the cameras in April of 2021.

“It’s kind of a last resort,” Curtner said. “We like to work with the administration and the police department to get this done, but if they won’t work with us then we’ll have to get a judge involved.”

During an Assembly meeting last week, citizens once again voiced their frustration with the delays.

“The Anchorage people have already spoken, and our freedom, it is an agreement that requires checks and balances,” testifier Meda Dewitt said. “It is an agreement that requires transparency and truth.”

“I think, at this point, it is unacceptable. It is inexcusable,” Assembly member Daniel Volland said.

Some citizens agree with the lawsuit that the Municipality of Anchorage and APD are to blame for hindering the process.

“They have done so by coming up with one excuse after another that prevents them from doing what over 7,200 other police departments around the country have already done,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit seeks “an injunction requiring defendants to begin equipping the APD with body cameras, with all due haste.” It goes on to say, “if this is beyond the competency of the current management of the APD and the municipality of anchorage, this court should appoint a special master.”

The suit also points out that other law enforcement officers in the state, including Fairbanks Police and Alaska State Troopers, have successfully implemented body cam policies.

Earlier this month, the Anchorage Police Department announced arbitration with the union representing Anchorage officers over the issue was being pushed back again — from this month to sometime in the fall.

The APD says it will hold a news conference Thursday morning to address the situation.

Mayor Dave Bronson indicated earlier this week that he fully supports putting body cameras on Anchorage officers.

“The Administration is committed to implementing this technology as expeditiously as possible,” a spokesperson for the mayor said in an email.

An email from the mayor’s office on Wednesday said he was aware of the suit, but would not comment further.

This story has been updated with additional information.