Report: Police acted properly in incident with autistic man

KODIAK — An independent investigation into a physical encounter between Kodiak police officers and an autistic man has determined that the three officers responded professionally.

The city hired Soldotna-based consultant Greg Russell to investigate the Sept. 16 incident involving the officers and Nick Pletnikoff. Russell’s report, acquired by the Kodiak Daily Mirror on Monday, states that the officers acted professionally and within the scope of their authority and used the minimal amount of force necessary to ensure their safety and that of the community.

Sgt. Francis de la Fuente had responded with officers Kathleen Gambling and Phillip Christman to a report of a man breaking into a vehicle when they found Pletnikoff, who had been checking his family’s mailbox. Pletnikoff was pepper sprayed and restrained.

No charges were filed against Pletnikoff, but his mother has said he suffered physical and emotional harm from the incident, The Kodiak Daily Mirror reported.

The city released video from police body cameras and other documents related to the incident on Dec. 31 following a court order.

Former public defender Ian Kasper examined the videos and found that de la Fuente “seemed to escalate the encounter to a physical altercation very quickly.” Kasper said he thought the officers appeared more aggressive than necessary, but noted that “a court might not see this as particularly extreme or having caused great damages.”

While Russell found that the officers acted professionally, he did include recommendations for the Kodiak Police Department. He suggested a review of department policy regarding the handling of mentally ill and developmentally disabled individuals as well as further training for officers in tactical communications, use of force and development of community relations.

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