The police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis continues to focus attention on racism driven brutality and killings by law enforcement across the country. As KUAC’s Dan Bross reports, the spotlight fell on Fairbanks during a city council meeting this week.
Council Police Anxiety: Q:”…here in Fairbanks.” :10
Mayor Jim Matherly addressed the meeting, saying residents can generally be proud of city police, but acknowledged that mistakes are made.
Council Police Force: Q:”…raised are investigated.” :19
Matherly said city police operating procedures and policies are currently undergoing a multi month review by a 3rd party law firm. The mayor also spoke to the importance of cultural sensitivity, de-escalation, less lethal force, and other training.
Council Police Better: Q:”… a proactive manner.” :13
Matherly pointed to a continued shortage of officers and trouble keeping up to date on some types of training. During citizen’s comments, some members of the public alleged brutality and racism by local law enforcement officers. Longtime attorney Bill Satterberg of Fairbanks spoke about a client who alleges mistreatment by Fairbanks Police officers during an incident last fall.
Council Police Hit: Q:”…hard both times.” :18
Satterberg played a short video of the man being hit, and provided the council copies of a longer video which he said shows the man failing to comply and being pepper sprayed.
Council Police Pepper: Q:”…with capsicum spray.” :08
An attorney who works for Satterberg, Amy Welch shared another case from last fall involving an African American man who was stopped for DUI and eluding police. She says her client, who she described as a “big guy”, ran and was justifiably tackled by several FPD officers, but things subsequently went bad.
Council Police Stun: Q:”…about 23 seconds.” :23
Welch said the man was left face down in the snow at 20 below zero for several minutes, and when he got up and struggled to comply was struck again. Welch and Satterberg said both of the cases described were brought to the attention of City Police Chief Nancy Reeder.
Council Police Accountability: Q:”…still exist today.” :27
Lisa McNulty, who’s husband was shot to death during an armed encounter with Alaska State Troopers in Fairbanks last year, emphasized that a disproportionate number of those killed by law enforcement are, like her husband, Alaska Native or other peoples of color.
Council Police Racism: Q:”…human life and equality.” :20
The council had only one item on its agenda specific to the issue. A resolution in response to the murder of George Floyd calling for justice, unity, constructive dialogue and action needed to confront racism, passed unanimously. One of the resolution’s sponsors, council member June Rogers pointed to the opportunity the current social climate offers.
Council Police Invest: Q:”…success for Fairbanks.” :14
Another resolution sponsor, council member Valerie Therrien, suggested starting with formation of a committee or holding public work session addressing racism in the community.