Anchorage Police Department officials said Wednesday that they have reached a resolution with the union over body camera policy disagreements that have contributed to delays in equipping officers with the technology.
The police department has faced mounting backlash from advocates and the public over the repeated delays. Officials have not provided a timeline for when the body cameras will be implemented.
Anchorage voters approved funding body cameras and technology upgrades for the police department more than two years ago through a $1.8 million annual tax increase. Officials initially said they expected officers to be wearing cameras by the end of 2021.
Early drafts of the policy, which governs how officers will use the cameras, stalled due to concerns from municipal attorneys about how the technology could conflict with privacy laws. Police Chief Michael Kerle said in March 2022 that the department would move ahead with the policy as drafted.
The department then entered into negotiations over the policy with the union that represents the officers, the Anchorage Police Department Employees Association. They intended to enter into arbitration this spring and solve the dispute through a neutral third party. That arbitration was postponed in April.
On Wednesday, officials from the department and union released a brief statement that said they had reached an agreement. Union President Darrell Evans described the negotiations as a collaborative effort. They reached a compromise on a portion of the policy that will allow officers to provide a statement or report prior to viewing body camera footage of situations where force was used, he said.
Police officials had previously said they could not move forward with outfitting officers with cameras until a resolution had been reached with the union on the policy. Kerle said last month that the department would move ahead, regardless of the ongoing negotiations. The decision was based on a new legal opinion from municipal attorneys, he said.
That announcement came a day after the Alaska Black Caucus filed a lawsuit against the city because of the repeated delays in body camera implementation. The police department and municipality “have collectively thwarted the will of the voters,” the lawsuit said.
Body cameras are commonplace in a majority of large police departments across the country, many of which have turned to body cameras to increase public trust and improve transparency and accountability.
On top of the voter-approved funding for the project, the Assembly allocated an additional $250,000 for body cameras, and the department was awarded $890,000 in federal funds.
The police department has yet to purchase body cameras. A vendor has been selected, and contract negotiations are ongoing, the department said. Officials have not said how long the purchasing process will take.
It took roughly 15 months for the department to sign a contract after it first solicited bids to upgrade the computer-aided dispatch and record management systems, which are also funded by the tax increase.
In the statement Wednesday, Kerle said officers will be trained on use as soon as the cameras arrive.