Family and friends still seek answers in the case of Nick Pletnikoff, who was left bloodied and bruised after being handcuffed and pepper-sprayed by three Kodiak Police officers in September. The 28-year-old is autistic and, according to his mother, still having difficulty dealing with the incident. Kodiak Tags photo
Last week both Kodiak's mayor and city manager broke their silence in the Nick Pletnikoff police brutality case and read short statements defending the city's lock-down of all information surrounding it. Pletnikoff is the autistic young man handcuffed and pepper-sprayed by three Kodiak Police officers in mid September while he was checking his mail just yards from his home.
At Thursday's council meeting, several citizens took the opportunity to chide the city on its complete lack of transparency in the case. Jone Suleski scolded the city for releasing a statement last month saying that Pletnikoff was subdued by the three KPD officers because he posed a threat to the community of Kodiak.
“Do you hear yourselves when you talk? You know that Nick was not a threat to anyone in this situation. You know that this was excessive force. And you know that,” Suleski said. “You should be ashamed of yourselves for looking the other way on this cover-up.”
Betty MacTavish first thanked Mayor Pat Branson for the statement she read last Tuesday.
“I want to thank you for reading the statement prior to the work session concerning Nick,” she said. “But it did little to address the concerns of our community. Stating that you would continue your silence on this issue gives citizens no answers to their questions.”
MacTavish then called on the city to require special training for officers in dealing with citizens with special needs.
“We have many, many individuals in our community that have varying disabilities, so the training needs to be established there. Just having officers get to know their community, know the individuals with disabilities – everyone knew Nick. He's a part of our community and has been for quite a while. Many officers volunteer for football and etcetera, maybe this is a new-hire rookie mistake, but we don't know. There's total silence,” MacTavish said. “Has there been any type of apology or even a statement of concern by the mayor, council members, city manager or the police chief? Silence does not mean this issue will go away. We are a small, small community. Denial of a Freedom of Information Request is only a delay tactic.”
Brent Watkins, who was instrumental in raising awareness of the assault, pointed out that the city's delay in releasing the audio and video recordings of the incident will not benefit the city, and in fact, further harms Nick Pletnikoff.
“Releasing these tapes not will have no adverse affect on any legitimate investigation. Yet withholding this public information has many adverse affects. The only one of these is time sensitive, just one, of all these issues, that's Nick,” Watkins said. “His doctors need to review this footage so they can develop and administer his effective treatment. They needed it weeks ago when they requested it. This is simply denying medical treatment, and it's wrong. There is no legal, moral, or ethical justification for this. We need a transparent government.”
Art Schultz agreed, and said that if the tables were turned, there would be no delay.
“KPD has, on numerous other occasions, discussed and even proudly displayed evidence of other cases. Is it possible that there's even one person in this town who does not believe that a video incriminating to Nick Pletnikoff would have somehow been made public many weeks ago?” Schultz said. “It really doesn't matter how long the city shops around for a favorable third-party ruling. What ultimately matters is how the people of Kodiak feel when this video is finally released. The city cannot possible aid its case with another Blue Wall of Silence. This is like a festering toothache – ignoring it only makes it worst.”
Despite being initially rejected in pursuit of the documents, KMXT, the Kodiak Daily Mirror and others continue to seek the public information that has so far been denied by Kodiak City Hall.