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Anchorage mayor, police chief to hold virtual town halls amid nationwide push for policing reform

Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz and Police Chief Justin Doll will hold a town hall-style meeting Wednesday evening, calling for more community dialogue during a nationwide push for fundamental changes in how police operate.

It’s a continuation of a discussion that began last week during a community briefing streamed on Facebook, said Carolyn Hall, a spokeswoman for the mayor. It comes as residents in cities across the country call for restructuring police departments, cutting police department budgets and reducing their responsibilities while moving more money toward social services.

Hall said the town hall is in direct response to the “community’s reaction to the horrific death of George Floyd.”

The Black Lives Matter movement gained momentum after Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police in May. Following Floyd’s death, protests commenced throughout the country, including in Anchorage and across Alaska, prompting a more in-depth discussion about local policing.

The city of Juneau is holding a similar meeting on Wednesday night.

Due to COVID-19, the meeting will be by video conference. Community members can join through Microsoft Teams by going to www.muni.org/townhall. People can join the video conference at 5:45 p.m., and the meeting will run from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Those who want to participate can submit a question via the platform’s chat function. The question will then be relayed to the mayor, police chief or Deputy Chief Kenneth McCoy.

Participants can also email townhall@anchorageak.gov to get placed in a queue. When it’s their turn, they will have two minutes to ask a question or make a comment. Those who participate in that format will not have to relay their comment or question prior to speaking.

Hall said there will be more town halls in the future, but there is not a schedule yet. There are not themes to each meeting, and people can ask about whatever they want.

“We are all in this together, and we want to walk through this together,” Hall said.

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