Police reform laws proposed by Alaska state lawmaker

Alaska State Troopers
Alaska State Troopers(KTUU)
Published: Apr. 3, 2021 at 7:42 PM AKDT
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An Alaska state lawmaker has proposed a series of measures aimed at addressing police violence against African Americans.

Democratic state Sen. Elvi Gray-Jackson, who is one of two Black lawmakers in the Alaska Legislature, said her legislation is aimed at preventing future police violence, KTOO Public Media reported Wednesday.

The package has six bills, including proposals that would ban chokeholds and prevent officers from shooting at vehicles.

Other proposed measures would require officers to follow de-escalation procedures and intervene when they see other officers violating standards, if it is safe to do so, and to provide verbal warnings before firing their weapons.

Gray-Jackson also is proposing a statewide database to track use-of-force incidents and requiring that police departments post their policies and procedures online.

“I’m hopeful that bringing these bills forward and then being state statutes will prevent us from having situations that have been experienced on a national level,” Gray-Jackson said.

A Washington Post database said that there have been 44 deaths involving police in Alaska since 2015.

“The goal is to have no lives lost. That’s the goal,” said Celeste Hodge Growden, the president and CEO of the Alaska Black Caucus. “There just needs to be some mechanisms put in place to assure that.”

Walt Monegan, a retired state Department of Public Safety commissioner who is part Tlingit and Yup’ik, said he has experienced many life-threatening scenarios where the proposed legislation might apply.

But he expressed mixed feelings about the proposals, KTOO reported.

“It’s hard to write a policy that will meet everything that you’re going to encounter out there,” Monegan said.

Monegan added that the chokehold, similar to the one that former officer Derek Chauvin used on George Floyd in Minneapolis last year, is outdated.

Floyd, a Black man, died after Chauvin, who is white, pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck while Floyd was held face-down on the ground handcuffed and said he could not breathe.

Body camera footage indicated Chauvin’s knee was on Floyd’s neck for about nine minutes. Floyd was later pronounced dead at a hospital.

“The idea of a chokehold?” Monegan said. “It should be gone.”

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