Assembly approves police transparency resolution

Anchorage Police Department on June 9, 2020 (Lex Treinen/Alaska Public Media)

The Anchorage Assembly approved a resolution on Tuesday that aims to improve transparency within the Anchorage Police Department. It focuses on making police policy changes more available to the public.

Tuesday’s resolution passed with an amendment supported by both the Berkowitz administration and APD, requiring quarterly reports to the assembly of any changes to police policy. It also involves the existing Public Safety Advisory Commission in reviewing policy changes to determine if public input is needed.

There were initial calls to postpone the resolution indefinitely, from assembly members who felt the move was unnecessary or needed more work.

“If we truly had a problem with our APD, I can understand this coming forward,” said Assemblywoman Jamie Allard. “We do not have problems within the APD that reflect what’s going on in the lower 48.”

This summer, following the deaths of George Floyd and other Black Americans, demonstrations around the country have protested police brutality and called for, at minimum, reforms to policing. Anchorage held its own peaceful protests at which protesters spoke about problematic run-ins with police and called for reforms within the department. 

Assemblyman Forrest Dunbar said APD leadership has been “reasonably amenable” to discussing transparency measures, including publishing APD policies online. He said regular policy reports will help keep the public in the loop.

“Policies change and sometimes folks aren’t always monitoring that website, which is quite detailed,” he said. “And so it would be better to have some affirmative statement, they could come and just at least inform us.”

The resolution, proposed by Assemblywoman Meg Zaletel, comes a month after a previous failed ordinance that would have required APD to submit policy changes to the Assembly for approval. Zaletel said it was a small step toward transparency and accountability.

“If not, now, when? I mean, come on, I have to say, frankly, this is a baby step,” she said. “We can put this off forever, it feels like. But the conversation of 2020 is transparency in policing and accountability. And I want to have this conversation with the community.”

Allard ultimately voted for the amended resolution. It passed 10-1, with only Assemblyman Kameron Perez-Verdia voting against. Perez-Verdia said later he feels okay with the resolution as it is, but was hoping it would be postponed for a period of time to allow for more work and input from stakeholders.