Community Reacts to APD Shooting
ANCHORAGE - Sunday’s deadly officer shooting of Harry Smith comes just days after Anchorage Police Officer Boaz Gionson was found justified in his use of deadly force against Shane Tasi. Even though both are police-involved shootings, the cases are very different, but not everyone in the community is making that distinction.
While some people were not willing to talk about police involved shootings on camera, they had a lot to say off-camera. Specifically about the issue of how officers handle tough scenarios and how consistent they are each time.
Asking the public to give a critique on the Anchorage Police wasn't an easy task, especially when most people we talked to didn't know many details of the department's latest deadly shootings.
Then we asked people how they feel about the way police handle shootings. That was met with a response that some say they don’t have a problem with, and others say more caution should be taken.
The Polynesian Community Center says the Anchorage community should pay more attention to what's been happening. “What happened with Mr. Smith and Mr. Tasi is a complete tragedy,” said the group’s executive director, Miriama Aumavae. “This pretty much can happen to anybody and it has been happening in the community and in other states.”
The group of young Polynesian professionals is organizing what's being called a peaceful demonstration on Saturday to voice concerns over police protocol. “If you’re going to be quick enough to clear your name, be quick enough to provide the Polynesian community and minorities and everyone in the Anchorage community with a prevention plan,” said Aumavae, who is asking for law enforcement to create strategies to defuse dangerous situations to prevent any deaths.
“If a plan was in place in that time, where there was a special team with negotiation skills, then probably Mr. Tasi would be alive today.”
But police say they were just doing their job. “Our job is to stop people from doing things that hurt other people,” said Parker, who said their actions depend on the situation at hand. And sometimes that action calls for the use of deadly force. “We as officers can only react to our perceptions of threat and when we perceive a threat we have to take some kind of action,” said Parker.
But some community members are questioning the actions police use while and others say they first want to hear all the facts from all sides. The Office of Special Prosecutions and APD homicide detectives are investigating Sunday's shooting of Smith, and police are still waiting for the toxicology results from the Shane Tasi shooting.
The Polynesian Community Center will hold its demonstration this Saturday at noon at the Far North Bicentennial Park off of Martin Luther King Drive.