- Associated Press - Monday, October 31, 2016

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - Juneau is seeking funding to acquire funding needed to outfit the city’s police officers with body cameras.

The police department has been testing different models of the devices for at least four years, but a lack of funding has kept it from implementing its own body camera program.

“This has been in the works here for years and years and years,” police Chief Bryce Johnson told The Juneau Empire (https://bit.ly/2epzoED). “We’ve been working toward this for some time.”

The city got help from the U.S. Department of Justice in September, when the federal agency awarded the department a $25,000 grant to help purchase 40 body cameras. But in order to secure the funds, the city must put up nearly $27,000 on its own.

The police department can cover about $7,000 of the total, but is asking the Juneau Assembly to appropriate the remainder in asset forfeiture funds.

“Usually what we’re talking about here is illegal drug money,” Johnson said. “These funds are designed to pay for things like this. This is what we’re supposed to be doing with them.”

The department has used the money seized during arrests in the past to fund its school resource officer program and its K-9 unit.

The Assembly will decide on the funding proposal next week.

Even if the Assembly approves the funds, Johnson said the department would still need about another year to determine the model of camera it wants to use and to strengthen its body camera policy.

Other police departments in the state have already equipped officers with body cameras, such as the Kenai and Kodiak police departments. Johnson acknowledged Juneau’s slow pace in starting its own program but said the department could learn from some of the other agencies.

“We’re not on the cutting edge here; we’re not blazing the trail,” Johnson said. “We are three or four years behind, but that’s where we want to be. We can learn from other agencies’ struggles.”

Deputy City Manager Mila Cosgrove told the Empire on Friday that the Juneau manager’s office will recommend that the Assembly pass the ordinance designating the funding for the city’s body camera program.

“From where Rorie (Watt, the city manager) and I stand, this seems like a reasonable thing to do,” Cosgrove said.

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Information from: Juneau (Alaska) Empire, https://www.juneauempire.com

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