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Crime & Courts

Anchorage Assembly to consider scaled-back effort to increase police oversight

  • Author: Aubrey Wieber
  • Updated: September 28
  • Published September 28

(Anne Raup / ADN)

On Tuesday, the Anchorage Assembly will consider a resolution from Assemblywoman Meg Zaletel seeking to add transparency and public vetting to future policy changes at the Anchorage Police Department.

The resolution comes after an earlier effort to impose greater oversight over APD was killed last month — an ordinance from Zaletel that would have changed some APD use-of-force policies, and required Assembly approval for future changes.

Zaletel said she wished the ordinance would have passed, but hopes the new resolution will increase public conversation about police policies.

Under the resolution, the city’s Public Safety Advisory Commission would review any changes to policies and procedures. If the commission feels it is appropriate, it could recommend to the Assembly’s Public Safety Committee that a hearing be held on the change so the public could be engaged.

The commission would also draft a quarterly report of changes at APD for the Assembly to review. Unlike Zaletel’s earlier proposal, the resolution would not require Assembly approval of changes to APD policy.

Last week, Assemblywomen Crystal Kennedy and Jamie Allard said in interviews they have doubts about the resolution.

Allard said one concern is that resolutions, unlike ordinances, don’t require public hearings. She also said she thinks the resolution is a “back door” to the ordinance that the body killed a month ago.

‘It wasn’t going to pass’

Zaletel’s interest in more public process regarding police policies comes as cities around the country are considering police reform.

“I know that my daughter cannot wait for this work to happen, as it is only a matter of when, not if, she has an encounter with the police,” Zaletel said from the dais of the Anchorage Assembly chambers on Aug. 25. “That is the reality of being black, indigenous or a person of color in America, and living in Anchorage is no exception.”

Zaletel made those comments seconds after making a motion to postpone the ordinance indefinitely, killing the policy. A vote to do that passed unanimously.

“The reason I postponed the prior ordinance indefinitely is it wasn’t going to pass. First, it didn’t mirror the APD use of force policy and second, it needed further vetting,” Zaletel said Monday.

A short public hearing was held on the ordinance in August, during which six people testified, primarily in favor.

Many Assembly members told the Daily News the policy just wasn’t quite right. There were changes to APD policy they felt removed flexibility needed for an officer to do their job, such as an officer needing to be in fear of their life to pull their gun on someone. Assemblyman John Weddleton said that could put an officer entering the scene of a burglary or other crime at risk.

Others mentioned staunch opposition from APD and its union, the Anchorage Police Department Employees Association.

Still, the ordinance never got a real debate. It was essentially dead on arrival. The Daily News reached out to all 11 members of the body, and interviewed all but Pete Petersen and Suzanne LaFrance.

Only Pete Petersen said he would have voted for Zaletel’s ordinance in August, and added that his strong preference was to postpone it until more work was done on the policy.

Zaletel said now is the time for change, and hopes she can get at change with increased public conversation as a result of her new resolution.