Troopers release body camera draft policy
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) – The Alaska State Troopers have released a draft policy for their body-worn cameras, which will be pilot distributed starting this spring.
According to a press release, the soldiers received funding for the cameras last July, purchased the cameras in November and will begin commissioning the mobile audio and video recording (MAVR) systems this year.
“This is something DPS wants to bring to the people we serve in our areas of responsibility,” said Bryan Barlow, deputy commissioner for the Department of Public Safety. “We believe this increases public confidence – something we take very seriously – it helps protect officers who are out there and leads to higher quality investigations.” There are several positive reasons for this, which have led us all to actively pursue this.”
The draft copy of the protocols is intended to generate public feedback, and Alaskans are encouraged by the Department of Public Safety to email their feedback or post their comments through the mail.
Troopers wrote that the policy was based on guidelines from the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the US Department of Justice and other law enforcement agencies.
“We’re doing this on our own, we take it seriously because we’re serious about the quality of service that we provide to the public,” Barlow said. “We are moving forward vigorously and robustly to implement this in our operations. Again we have achieved a lot, our planning team has achieved a lot over the last year in terms of policy development, fundraising, product selection and implementation program development.”
According to soldiers, as of July 2022, $3.58 million in government funding was allocated, and an additional $938,000 was granted by the federal government. In November 2022, the department purchased 600 Motorola V300 body cameras for nearly $3 million to be distributed to Alaska State Troopers, Alaska Wildlife Troopers, Court Service Officers, Village Public Safety Officers, and commissioned officers from the State Fire Marshal’s Office. Department of Public Safety communications director Austin McDaniel said 410 cameras are currently budgeted to go to soldiers later this year.
“While on duty, officers must make every effort to manage their interactions with the public during traffic enforcement, citizen complaint arrests, situations where the officer believes would result in an incident (Alaska Records Management System), or other.” Situations where the officer believes it would be beneficial to have a digital record,” the policy said. “Officials must start recording as soon as possible in a given situation and continue recording until the conclusion of the event, including recording statements. It is recommended to enable recording before contacting the public.”
McDaniel said the soldiers were proactive in trying to provide the public with timely footage of critical incidents.
“We recognize that the public wants their law enforcement officials to be transparent when it comes to the use of force in cases of death in custody. For this reason, we have indicated here that we are interested in releasing bodycam footage and dashcam footage associated with incarceration deaths once these primary interviews have been conducted,” said McDaniel. “In general, however, the way Alaska’s public record laws are written protects any type of evidence from being released to the public until this case makes its way through the criminal justice system. Ultimately, we must protect an accused’s right to a fair trial.”
Troopers wrote in a separate post on their website that the pilot program will begin this spring, deploying 30 cameras in “urban and rural Alaska” to Troopers in the Kenai Peninsula, Matanuska-Susitna District and inland, who already have wireless dashboard cameras in their patrol vehicles. Soldiers wrote that the majority of the body cameras would be issued to the remaining officers “later in 2023.”
In stark contrast to the Troopers’ timeline, which elapsed just over a year between the allocation of funds and the cameras going live, it has been almost two years since Anchorage voters approved body-worn cameras for Anchorage police officers.
“That’s the kind of timeline that you’re going to see across the country as police departments start having body cameras. This is the runaway for the Anchorage Police Department, it’s been almost two years now,” said Rich Curtner, co-chair of the Alaska Black Caucus Justice Committee. “I don’t know what that timeline is about, it’s been a delayed process, the arbitration won’t start until April now and they say they’re contacting vendors right now and may not have body cameras by the end of the year and that’s the road.” not a timeline I haven’t seen anywhere else. It just seems like it’s just delay, delay, delay.”
Voters approved a property tax levy to fund body-worn cameras in April 2021. The debate over whether officers should be able to review their own footage was settled between the Anchorage Police Department and the Anchorage Police Department Employees Association after a draft guideline was released in October 2021.
McDaniel said the soldiers specifically requested the cameras from the Alaska Legislature in 2022.
“We asked for them because we think they’re valuable tools and modern day policing,” McDaniel said. “They funded us in July 2022 and here we are in February, you know, not even a year later, with our policy, sort of in our final draft public feedback format. We will take that public feedback and then work to train the policy and begin distributing cameras to people who are performing before a year is out.”
The soldiers wrote that they would retain the footage for anywhere from 26 months to 99 years, depending on the case, and that they can proactively release footage following shootings involving officers. The public can request copies of body-worn camera footage, but copies will not be distributed in cases pending trial.
“Generally, video footage from body-worn cameras will not be released to government agencies outside of the criminal justice system until all criminal investigations and court proceedings are complete and the recording is available to the public through the Alaska Public Records Act,” the policy said.
Offices can switch off their recordings if they deem it necessary. The draft policy includes specific examples of speaking to a district attorney, speaking to another officer, or discussing an incident with a victim who only speaks to officers without being recorded.
However, officers can also be penalized for not recording when they should have.
“A technical malfunction is not a reason for corrective or disciplinary action. However, if a supervisor finds a pattern of an officer not making records as indicated above, this may result in additional training, corrective action or disciplinary action,” the policy reads.
Comments on the policy may be sent by mail to the Alaska Department of Public Safety at 5700 East Tudor Road Anchorage, AK 99507 using ATTN: BWC Comments.
On February 2, Alaska’s News Source will report on ongoing efforts to equip Anchorage police with body-worn cameras.
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