Meeting Planned to Address Shootings

Photo courtesy of the the Polynesian Community Center.

A public meeting is planned for later this month about recent police shootings in Anchorage. Polynesian Community members say they are satisfied with a preliminary meeting over the shootings Friday. Saturday they held a rally to draw attention to their cause.

Officials say that around 150 people turned out at Far North Bicentennial Park over the weekend to call on the Anchorage Police Department to consider changing their policies around shooting. Mirama Aumavae, the Executive Director of the newly formed Polynesian Community Center, helped organize the event.

“And it wasn’t just the Polynesian community, it was a very diverse group. We really demonstrated that we were coming together with a voice. Like that there is an issue and we raised that. There was nothing violent, like they were afraid of,” Aumavae said.

About a dozen people attended a private meeting on Friday, preceding the rally, including Representatives of the Mayor’s Office, Anchorage Police Chief Mark Mew and members of Polynesian community groups, among others. Officials did not go into detail about what was discussed. But Aumave says the meeting was productive.

“It was just a starting point for communication between the community and the Anchorage Police Department,” Aumavae said.

June 9, an Anchorage Police Officer shot and killed a Samoan man, Shane Tasi, who was brandishing a stick in the Mountain View Neighborhood. Chief Mew says the Office of Special Prosecutions and Appeals, a division of the State Attorney General’s office ruled the shooting was legal because the officer believed he and a bystander were faced with ‘imminent threat of serious physical injury or death’. Another man holding a bb gun, resembling a real smith and Wesson gun, was shot and killed during a police call July 1. Aumave’s group and others who attended the rally are calling on the APD to consider using non-lethal force. A proposition that Police Chief Mark Mew says is difficult.

“We can’t have a lot of bullets flying around. Frankly, getting center mass hits on a fast moving target is difficult enough. Trying to shoot hands and feet and knives and guns would be almost impossible,” Mew said.

Chief Mew says, since the recent shootings, his office has been flooded with requests to equip more officers with tasers, something he’s willing to consider.

“In this last couple, three weeks I have gotten the public’s apparent acceptance of tasers. So that’s been instructive for us. And if the public has an appetite for that technology and is willing to fund it then I will certainly take a look at what we can do in that regard,” Mew said.

But Mew says issuing more tazers will have a hefty price tag. Each one will cost approximately $1,300. And they’ll be additional costs in the form of training and related equipment. Right now, about half of the force carries tazers. Three people have been shot by APD officers this year, two fatally.

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Daysha Eaton, KMXT - Kodiak
Daysha Eaton is a contributor with the Alaska Public Radio Network. Daysha Eaton holds a B.A. from Evergreen State College, and a M.A. from the University of Southern California. Daysha got her start in radio at Seattle public radio stations, KPLU and KUOW. Before coming to KBBI, she was the News Director at KYUK in Bethel. She has also worked as the Southcentral Reporter for KSKA in Anchorage. Daysha's work has appeared on NPR's "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered", PRI's "The World" and "National Native News". She's happy to take assignments, and to get news tips, which are best sent via email. Daysha became a journalist because she believes in the power of storytelling. Stories connect us and they help us make sense of our world. They shed light on injustice and they comfort us in troubled times. She got into public broadcasting because it seems to fulfill the intention of the 4th Estate and to most effectively apply the freedom of the press granted to us through the Constitution. She feels that public radio has a special way of moving people emotionally through sound, taking them to remote places, introducing them to people they would not otherwise meet and compelling them to think about issues they might ordinarily overlook.