APD holds first virtual town hall, fielding community questions on policing
The Anchorage Police Department held its first virtual town hall on Wednesday evening, fielding questions from the community on the state of policing in the city.
In the wake of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis, Mayor Ethan Berkowtiz said “the question we have now is, what are we going to do moving forward?”
For Chief Justin Doll, it’s about listening to the community and striving to come up with solutions together.
Concrete changes would see a request made to the Anchorage Assembly to outfit all APD officers with body cameras. Berkowitz also signaled that a request could be made next week to hire more social workers during the COVID-19 pandemic who could also be used to assist police.
Deputy Chief Ken McCoy spoke at the town hall meeting about the possibility of using social workers more during behavioral health crisis calls. “Which we all recognize we are not well-equipped to handle,” McCoy said.
A caller identified only as “Sarah” asked whether the department would support seeing its budget cut in favor of increasing spending for social services.
Doll said that he didn’t agree with that idea. APD takes roughly 11% of the municipality’s budget when spending on the school district is included.
“I don’t feel like, from my perspective, and from the feedback that I’m getting from the community, that there’s much appetite to see the police department’s budget shrink,” Doll said.
On diversity at the department, there was agreement that things should change.
“No amount of recruiting is going to make that happen, so that’s something we really need the community’s help to make happen,” Doll said.
The town hall meeting was likely the first in a series held with Anchorage residents on policing in the city.