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Anchorage Assembly kills proposed change to police use-of-force policy, but another push for more oversight is coming

  • Author: Aubrey Wieber
  • Updated: August 29, 2020
  • Published August 28, 2020

(ADN archive, 2019)

A proposed ordinance that would have given the Anchorage Assembly more oversight of the Anchorage Police Department’s use-of-force policy was killed by the body on Thursday night, but is being resurrected through a different process.

The ordinance, proposed by Assemblywoman Meg Zaletel, would have made it so that changes to the use-of-force policy would need the Assembly’s approval, which Zaletel said would add transparency and accountability to the process.

Instead, Zaletel is proposing that changes to police policy and procedure go through the Public Safety Advisory Commission.

The ordinance drew opposition from APD leadership and the police union. The ordinance’s language would change the existing use-of-force policies, Anchorage Police Department Employees Association President Jeremy Conkling said.

Conkling in an email said several of the policy restrictions in the ordinance mirror APD’s current policy, but current policy allows for practices like shooting at a moving vehicle and shooting when innocent bystanders are near, as long as there are extenuating circumstances. Zaletel’s ordinance would not allow for that flexibility, he said.

Conkling especially objected to an addition to policy dictating when deadly force could be used.

Under the proposed ordinance, the use of deadly force would have to be authorized, objectively reasonable and necessary. Conkling objected to the addition of “necessary,” saying there could be a situation where in the moment the officer believed they were responding appropriately, but after the fact, with evidence the officer did not have at the time they fired their gun, the shooting could be deemed unnecessary.

Zaletel plans to bring forth a resolution on Sept. 15 that would funnel all proposed changes to policies and procedures requested by APD, the Assembly or the commission itself through the Public Safety Advisory Commission.

At least quarterly, that commission will make a presentation to the Assembly’s Public Safety Committee. Then, any proposed changes would still ultimately need be approved by the Assembly.

“That way it gives the Assembly a check on whatever the change may be, which doesn’t exist now,” Zaletel said.

Individual changes to APD’s policies and procedures would go through the public process at the Public Safety Advisory Commission, and then through an Assembly committee.

Zaletel said minor things, like a change in the APD uniform, would likely not get an Assembly public hearing, but changes to use of force likely would.

Because Zaletel’s adjusted proposal is a resolution and not an ordinance, the process change does not need a public hearing.

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