The Anchorage police shot and killed another Anchorage resident, Kenneth John, on Monday night. According to the Anchorage Police Department, an officer (yet to be named) stopped Mr. John in his vehicle at 12th and Hyder Street on Monday at 6:30 p.m. John got out of the car and was holding a knife or bladed weapon. The officer retreated to the rear of her car and commanded John to stop or drop the bladed weapon. John did not, so she shot and killed him. Anchorage police shot and killed John’s cousin, Detlef Wulf, eariler this year on April 5, 2013. There does not appear to be any connection between the two shootings at the moment.
This is the third person shot and killed by Anchorage police this year. There have been 10 officer-involved shootings in Anchorage in the past year and a half, which includes five in 2012 and already five more so far this year. In contrast, there were no more than three officer-involved shootings in any year between 2008 and 2011. When a shooting occurs, the APD conducts its own internal investigation to determine if the shooting was justified. The Office of Special Prosecutions also usually conducts an oversight review to determine if lethal force was justified.
With so many shootings, we might ask ourselves if something has changed in the past two years to justify so many shootings. Has there been a change in attitude in our community toward our police department? Has there been a change in policy in the APD regarding use of lethal force against Anchorage residents? Or is this merely the unfortunate result of a series of unfortunate events?
There was a recent article in the New York Times regarding the the FBI and officers-involved shootings. According to the article, the FBI has deemed its agents faultless in 150 shootings. These shootings stretch back approximately two decades, meaning in each shooting over the past two decades, not one FBI officer has ever been at fault. Lethal force was always justified, unequivocally. According to criminal justice professor, Samuel Walker, these numbers seem “suspiciously low.”
The FBI’s suspiciously low no-fault numbers may be the result of insufficient internal investigation and oversight procedures. We should not let that happen here. We should demand that the APD and Office of Special Prosecutions have in place sufficient procedures to adequately investigate Anchorage shootings. We should also demand that there be some transparency. We might also want some type of oversight of the Office of Special Prosecution’s decision. At the very least, we should continue to be aware of this disturbing trend in our community, whatever its cause.
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