The Anchorage Police Department is proposing that uniformed officers wear body cameras at all times while on duty and record all calls for service or when initiating encounters with the public “unless it is unsafe, impossible or impractical to do so.”
The department is seeking public comment on the draft proposal, with a listening session set for later this month. Anchorage voters this year approved a property tax increase to pay for body cameras and police department technology upgrades.
Acting Anchorage Police Chief Kenneth McCoy said the cameras will provide more transparency, Alaska Public Media reported.
“We know that the cameras will help hold bad officers accountable. We’ve seen it across the country, so it’s important,” he said. “And that’s why we’re willing to make the effort to get our officers outfitted with it, in the community.”
The draft policy would allow officers to turn off cameras when speaking to other officers about the facts of a case, when interacting with an undercover officer or confidential informant, or in places with an expectation of privacy, such as a locker room.
Officers could face discipline if they fail to activate cameras in required situations or if they “inappropriately interrupt or terminate a recording,” under the draft.
Release of footage to the public through records requests would be done in accordance with state and municipal laws and department policy, the draft states. Footage involving pending criminal charges would not be released publicly until the charges are resolved, the draft states.
Megan Edge, a spokesperson for the American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska, told The Associated Press the section on release of footage “needs work.”
The draft does not address how the department will share footage when force is used or when officers are accused of misconduct, she said. “APD is avoiding the issue by lumping all criminal investigations together,” Edge said by email Monday.
“There is a legitimate public interest, and need, in being able to see this type of footage - both to understand how APD’s officers do their jobs and to determine if those methods are effective, appropriate, and in the best interest of the public they serve,” she wrote.
Edge noted her organization would not want footage to be shared “in ways that might violate due process or improperly expose that someone had an encounter with police.” But she said there are ways to protect privacy.
She said releasing body camera footage “the right way will not undermine an investigation or due process” and will increase public trust.