Equity, justice, and police practices to be addressed in upcoming assembly ordinances

Published: Jul. 11, 2020 at 7:41 PM AKDT
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In the coming weeks, the Anchorage Assembly will be looking at a number of different ordinances that look to address concerns brought up during protests in Anchorage and around the world against police brutality and systemic racism.

Two of the ordinances focus on police practices. One, brought forward by Assembly members Meg Zaletel and Forrest Dunbar, would require the Anchorage Police Department to post their policies and procedures online. Those policies were previously available, but they were pulled down years ago because they weren’t being kept up to date.

APD Chief Justin Doll has said the department is already working to make its policies available online. This ordinance would give them until September.

"So it'll give APD some time to actually organize the files, make sure they're digitized, and get them up in a usable fashion,” Zaletel said.

The other ordinance relating the APD would codify use-of-force restrictions, such as a ban on chokeholds, that they already practice. Zaletel is the sole sponsor of this ordinance.

“I really want this ordinance to be a jumping-off point for a community conversation around what was already in the APD policies and procedures,” she said. “I think we need to remember, policies and procedures can be changed, but by putting particular provisions in ordinance, it provides more teeth to it."

A third ordinance brought forward by Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz looks for justice on a larger scale. It would establish an office of equity and justice, complete with a Chief Equity Officer, to monitor the municipality.

“The remedy that we think will make a difference over the long term is to build in some structural equity and structural justice, and we wanted to make sure that there was a person at the municipality who woke up every day willing to champion those issues,” Berkowitz said.

The name of the office hearkens to existing groups within the municipality like the Anchorage Equal Rights Commission and the Office of Equal Opportunity, but Berkowitz said this new office would be more proactive.

“Those existing structures are either facing inward in terms of making sure we’re in compliance with federal laws, or else they’re investigative, to make sure that people who have experience equal rights issues have a place to go and seek redress for them,” he said. “What we’re proposing here is something entirely’s intended to go forward and try to be a remedy for some of the structural problems that exist in our society.”

All three ordinances will be introduced at the Assembly's July 14th meeting, but they won't be up for public hearing until later meetings in July and August, after which the Assembly will be able to vote on them.

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