Anchorage police won't release bodycam video of 3 shootings. It's creating a fight over transparency

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Only months after police officers in Alaska's largest city began wearing body cameras, a rash of shootings involving police — three in three weeks — has rattled residents and spurred calls for more transparency from law enforcement, who have not release any footage of the shootings.

Anchorage Police Chief-designee Bianca Cross has the legal authority to release the footage from all shootings immediately. However, she plans to wait until after all department and state investigations are finished, a process that could take months. During a news conference this week, Cross indicated the footage might not be released at all.

The Alaska Black Caucus and family members of one of the men shot, Kristopher Handy, have called repeatedly for the footage be made public. In Handy's fatal shooting, they say, a neighbor’s security camera footage calls into question the Anchorage Police Department’s narrative.

“We didn’t get to go through all of this to secure the body cameras, to get them equipped on the officers, to be where we are today,” Celeste Hodge Growden, president of the Alaska Black Caucus, said in an interview Thursday. “The purpose was so that we could have the untold story, the transparency, the accountability, and that’s what we’re missing right now.”

Four officers fired at Handy in an apartment complex parking lot on May 13. The officers later said he raised a long gun at them. Authorities haven’t specified the type of firearm. However, the security camera footage of the shooting, which was posted online, appears to show the gun in Handy’s right hand with the barrel pointed down at the ground when he was shot multiple times.

Cross has said it’s easy to believe the neighbor’s video tells the entire story in the Handy shooting. That assumption, she said in a statement, was “untrue.”

She said the video doesn't capture important details, like what happened before and after the 33-second clip, or outside the camera's view.

“It also does not capture the human element of those involved to include their perception, what they see, what they hear, and what they know,” she said in mid-May.

Handy’s family members were among the 80 or so people who protested late last month outside police headquarters in downtown Anchorage. Many marched with signs that read, “Release the footage now!”

“I do feel that the body camera, dashcam footage will conclusively show what we believe happened. And that’s a reason it is not being released,” his brother, Travis Handy, told the Anchorage Daily News at the protest.

Cross, a 26-year Anchorage Police veteran and the first woman to lead the department, was appointed chief in late April by Mayor Dave Bronson. He lost his reelection bid last month and leaves office at the end of June. Cross has not yet been confirmed by the Anchorage Assembly for the permanent post.

City voters approved a $1.6 million tax levy in 2021 to acquire the cameras, but it’s been a prolonged process to get them into use as the department and union agreed on policies.

The Alaska Black Caucus, an advocacy group that was key in the push to have police wear cameras, sued over the delays. Officers began wearing the cameras last November.

The other two police shootings, one of them fatal, occurred in the past week.

Tyler May, 21, was killed Monday after police said he refused orders to drop his weapon after a police dog put him on the ground. Three officers fired their guns.

The other shooting happened early Saturday morning after the bars closed in downtown Anchorage. Kaleb Bourdukofsky argued with a man outside a bar. As he walked away, police say he turned and shot into a crowd killing the man he argued with and wounding another.

Two officers heard the gunfire from the nearby police headquarters. They encountered Bourdukofsky, who they said was armed, then shot and wounded him.