Hoonah Police Chief Eric Hurtado speaks to News of the North

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Hoonah Police Chief Eric Hurtado

Juneau, Alaska (KINY) – Hoonah Police Department Chief Eric Hurtado spoke to News of the North this week about a recent memo from the city attorney showing an investigation into possible unauthorized access to police department cameras and audio.

In April, Hurtado asked the city council to investigate the matter of an internet service provider providing access codes to police department cameras. The chef told News of the North it was a power outage and an attempt to restart the building’s internet service that led to the discovery.

Hoonah City Attorney Jim Sheehan ultimately found no wrongdoing on the part of Mayor Gerald Byers or City Administrator Dennis Gray.

“What got us to this point was that we had a power outage here, and we had our provider come in and try to get our IP address back online,” Hurtado said. “And that’s when we discovered there might be a security flaw in our system.”

Hurtado added that when he learned that access had been granted to someone other than himself, he took action. He said he was concerned about the safety and security of others.

“Well, obviously we are concerned about the safety and security of staff and also victims who come into our police station,” Hurtado said. “So we immediately informed the city and the relevant authorities who would do an independent investigation and make sure that we followed the rules that were supposed to, and if we did something that we weren’t supposed to do, we still want to be transparent. … So those calls were made.

According to a memo from Sheehan, Byers’ reason for requesting access for himself and City Gray was to watch the police department and make sure officers were on patrol.

“I think we’re pretty transparent,” Hurtado said. “We have a small community. We only have a few agents to run 24/7 here in Hoonah, and the community knows how busy we are.

In the memo, Sheehan advised Hurtado not to contact the city council directly, but to go directly to them if he couldn’t get to the mayor.

“I think it’s important that as head of department we follow the rules,” Hurtado said. “Also, that rules are made for a reason. And, in order to maintain transparency and fairness, that there are options for situations like this. And it will probably be decided later whether it was the right decision or not.

Hurtado concluded by saying that the possibility of HPD audio being monitored, in addition to video, bothers him the most.

“I think as Director of Public Safety it’s important that especially law enforcement today, we’re already struggling to win over that rest of the people we serve, we still have to do everything we can to build trust between the community and law enforcement,” Hurtado said. “One of our concerns, in this regard, is that there is not only a video feed which we believe has been compromised, but also an audio feed, so that people who would come and give their version of a account maybe graphic nature we don’t want unauthorized people and non-investigators to have access to the live feed of this material and we just don’t want victims to be really re-victimized because there’s may have had a security breach of their information and statement that was not authorized.

Sheehan declined to comment further on this story.

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