City no closer to delivering body-worn camera program that improves public safety.

In a disappointing Wednesday presentation during the Anchorage Assembly’s Public Safety Committee, Municipal Manager Amy Demboski offered an updated body-worn camera policy that fails to meet the needs of residents, fails to improve accountability and transparency of the Anchorage Police Department, and would dramatically increase the department’s budget at the expense of taxpayers.

Community members have been providing APD with feedback on the policy for months to ensure the program — funded by a special tax approved by voters in April — achieves accountability, while protecting the privacy of citizens.
Despite these efforts, the city has derailed the public process and created a policy that does not fulfill the mission of the program.

Specifically, the latest draft of the policy:

  • Does not contain language that ensures police must release footage to the public in the event of a shooting, killing, or other demonstration of excessive force;
  • No longer contains language regarding the discipline of officers who use bodycams inappropriately;
  • Instructs officers to turn off cameras when speaking with each other about cases;
  • And does not comprehensively protect people’s privacy. While the updated policy makes some strides in restraining bodycam use in sensitive areas, it does not explain how long APD will store and retain footage. This, allows police to use cameras as a tool for mass surveillance, at a high cost to residents to store it.

“These changes were not made in the interest of protecting citizens. These changes will allow APD to keep secrets and will keep the public from being aware of how their police department operates, and who it polices,” said ACLU of Alaska Advocacy Director Michael Garvey. “The updated policy entrenches police power — the opposite of why the community demanded body cameras in the first place. This policy will not make us safer, more equal or free.”

In addition to dramatic policy changes, the municipality also disrupted what was already a lackluster process for developing the program. Instead of a presentation and opportunity for meaningful dialogue with police, who have been developing the policy and will implement the body camera program, Demboski provided the update.

“This is problematic for a couple of reasons: It makes her an unnecessary filter between the legislative body and administrative agency, but it also lowers the quality of information being provided to the community. This is yet another move from the Bronson Administration to fight against government transparency,” Garvey said.

The public will have 30 days to weigh in on the new policy, but the public will have to provide it using the generic APD feedback form that is unspecific to any issue.