By Melinda Munson
Skagway residents can now expect to be recorded, including audio and video, when they interact with Skagway’s three police officers. The police department recently purchased four Axon body cameras at a total cost of $21,396 for a five-year plan.
Acting Police Chief Jerry Reddick began researching the use of cameras shortly after he replaced former chief Ray Leggett in October 2020.
Reddick said some people questioned the necessity of body cameras.
“We’re in Skagway, why do you need those?” he was asked.
“It’s for transparency,” Reddick said. “The reason for the body cameras is for them, and for us.”
Reddick said he had concerns body cameras might make community members more hesitant to speak to officers, but decided video and audio evidence would protect both citizens and police officers.
He pointed out that while the cameras have “a fish eye,” officers would be reacting to the 180 degree view, not just what can be seen on camera.
Footage from the cameras is downloaded to an offsite storage service called evidence.com. Reddick’s officers may review recordings but can’t alter or download the record.
“We want to make sure privacy is protected,” Reddick said.
Reddick said body camera procedure is still being finalized. He sent two procedure plans to Borough Manager Brad Ryan for review by the municipality’s attorney.
According to Borough Treasurer Heather Rodig, the four cameras and charging stations cost $3,598. In addition, the licensing, storage and technical support for the first year will cost $3,160. The municipality will then pay $3,660 each successive year, for a total of five years.
In a recent Skagway Bulletin Board Facebook discussion about the police cameras, opinions varied.
“It’s always (a) great thing, police having a bodycam. Wouldn’t hurt at all,” said local jeweler Murtat Ozuzun.
Artist Kathy Warchuck dsagreed.
“I choose to think of Skagway as a small town with small town issues, so do we really need body cameras? Read the Skagway Police Blotter in the paper… nothing too exciting,” Warchuck responded.