The Anchorage Daily News editorial board must be reading the Alaska Black Caucus Boldly Committed Newsletter. Here is an excerpt from the ADN editorial board on February 3, 2024:

“Anchorage police started making promises about implementing body cameras a decade ago, but — as in many places around the country — the wheels didn’t truly start turning until a string of Lower 48 citizen-captured incidents where civilians died through police use of force. Anchorage residents felt strongly enough about the matter of police accountability that they voted to tax themselves $1.8 million to purchase, implement and maintain body-worn cameras for APD officers. Even after that vote, it still took years (and the threat of legal action) for APD to actually purchase the cameras and begin rolling them out — and, as in other municipalities where the same process has played out, initial promises of transparency have been steadily undermined by revisions of the police policy on how and when (and if) footage is made public.”

The “threat of legal action” refers to the lawsuit the Alaska Black Caucus filed against APD and the Municipality after two years of delay. The case was dismissed when APD finally announced what we had been asking for a deadline for having body cams on all patrol officers in uniform and on duty.

And the editorial went on to identify the next issue our Justice Committee is focusing on. When there is a severe incident involving police use of force recorded on body cams, when will those recordings be available to the public?

“The statistics about how often footage is withheld after serious incidents are sobering: In New York City in 2023, according to ProPublica’s investigation, police shot 28 people — and released footage from only seven of those shootings by year’s end. More broadly, in June 2022, ProPublica found that police killed 79 U.S. residents in incidents captured by body-worn cameras, and 18 months later, the footage had been released in only 42% of those cases.

The language in APD’s body-camera footage policy is squishy enough that the same thing could happen here, too. As written, the release of body camera footage is at the discretion of the chief of police, which — although we have faith in the department’s professionalism — is a system in which footage could easily be delayed, withheld, or selectively released if the chief saw the footage as damaging or embarrassing.”

The Alaska Black Caucus Justice Committee will be strategizing with community organizations and working with the Municipal Assembly to change body camera policy to require the automatic release of footage in police shootings and other critical incidents. Stay tuned.