Anchorage police union says it has waited more than a month for city to begin negotiations on body cameras

Several APD vehicles parked at the department’s Elmore building. (Wesley Early/Alaska Public Media)

The Anchorage police union says it has now waited more than a month for the city to begin negotiations on the policy to put body cameras on police officers.

The Anchorage Police Department completed its final draft of the policy at the end of March, but now the union needs to weigh in. 

Jeremy Conkling, the president of the Anchorage Police Department Employees Association, said he put in a request to the city’s Human Resources Department in mid-April, asking for a date to start the negotiations.

“I got a reply back on April 18 that the municipality would look into dates and get back to me soon,” Conkling said. “And I’ve heard nothing from anyone about negotiations since April 18.”

In a statement Friday, Corey Allen Young, a spokesman for Mayor Dave Bronson, said body cameras are a priority for the city, but officials have several other negotiations that must be completed within certain time periods.

“We have been preparing to negotiate with APDEA and are in the process of scheduling a meeting with them but have been delayed due to the negotiating of 3 collective bargaining agreements that have been in various stages over the last month and a half,” Young wrote.

APD officials say they won’t comment on the draft policy until it’s finalized and put into practice. 

Negotiations to finalize the policy would involve the police department, the city and the union. Voters approved the purchase of the body cameras last April. 

Conkling said the union is in support of the body cameras — overall. He said he’s seen evidence in Lower 48 police departments that body cameras allowed for more complaints against officers to be “weeded out” after departments reviewed video footage. He also believes it will aid in the prosecution of criminals.

“We know that prosecutors like when we have crimes on video,” Conkling said. “So if we’re able to get more video of suspects engaging in criminal behavior, than conceivably we should see more convictions.”

Anchorage Police Department Employees Association president Jeremy Conkling. (Wesley Early/Alaska Public Media)

But he has some concerns about the draft policy. For one, he said, it doesn’t allow officers to review footage in some instances like if someone dies in police custody or officers use deadly force. He said they should be able to look at the footage before answering questions about it.

“Especially since the person asking the questions will have already seen the video and be able to ask questions about specific conduct on the video that our officers did a day, a week, a month, upward of a year ago,” he said.

While Conkling is focused on officer access to body camera footage, advocates in Anchorage are also concerned that there is no clear pathway for public release of certain recordings, like of police shootings, beyond making a records request — a process that can take months. 

Conkling said there are legal and privacy issues surrounding the release of footage, but he believes there should be a reasonable avenue for the public to be able to review footage. 

“They had a desire to have increased transparency within our department,” Conkling said. “And I think part of that is the ability for them to review it. It’s one thing to say, ‘Yep. Copy. We’ve got cameras. We’re recording everything. You just can’t see it.’ I don’t necessarily think that meets the goal of what the public had in mind when they funded these cameras.”

There is still no final date for when cameras will be on Anchorage officers. 

This story has been updated with a statement from Mayor Bronson’s administration.

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Wesley Early covers municipal politics and Anchorage life for Alaska Public Media. Reach him at wearly@alaskapublic.org.

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