Days after a superior court judge ordered the release of a body cam video, the Kodiak Police Department suspended its Body-Worn Camera Program, which began in February 2015. However, it wasn’t until this summer that KPD announced the suspension.
At a Kodiak City Council regular meeting in August, Police Chief Ronda Wallace outlined some of the department’s reasons for the decision, including issues with how the technology functions and concern for the privacy of the people caught on camera.
In an interview Monday, Wallace said KPD will soon reinstate body cams, this time using the Axon Body from Taser International. Wallace said this camera model provides an option to blur faces and solves the problem of videos revealing the identities of those on camera.
“It’s private, confidential information, so what the solution is to that in selecting the Taser product is that it gives us the software in there to be able to redact – blur – that information, so that that private, confidential information does not get pushed out when we have to release a video or when it’s requested.”
Wallace also spoke to the usefulness of the body cams in her role as chief, and said it’s a useful tool for her to assess officers’ strengths and weaknesses.
KPD has had police car mounted cameras for years, and Wallace said body-cameras will support accountability for both officers and civilians.
“If you have, and I’m not say we do here, but if you have an officer that may be heavy-handed or pushes their use of force, that captures those kinds of things, and then we can find ways – not find ways, but then we can address the issue, but it also brings accountability to the citizen too.”
She said it furthermore adds transparency.
“So that the community can see what we are doing, we don’t try to hide anything we’re doing, but I think it gives that value to the community where they feel that our accountability, police’s accountability is being held to what they’re wearing also, to not only just us, but also them.”
The changes come approximately 13 months after three KPD officers were accused of using excessive force in subduing Nick Pletnikoff, an autistic young man. At the end of last year, under court order, the City of Kodiak was forced to release video and audio recordings of the incident.