NewsAmerica in Crisis


Arizona activists say real change means accountability, transparency in police departments

Phoenix Protest, Sunday 5-31
Posted at 7:52 PM, Jun 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-10 01:12:29-04

On Tuesday, the Phoenix Police Department announced that it would "suspend training and use of the Carotid Control Technique, effective immediately," via its Twitter account.

​The technique resembles a choke hold and slows the of flow of blood to the brain which can cause unconsciousness. ​

Police departments around the country have moved to stop the practice in the days following the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. An officer was recorded pressing his in knee into Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes.​

Jamaar Williams with Black Lives Matter Phoenix Metro (BLM) tells ABC15 the decision was long overdue. However, Williams says the move does not do two of the main things the group has been asking for: increased transparency and accountability.​

Williams says recent appearance at marches by Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams and Mayor Kate Gallego don't get the job done either.​

"All those gestures might be nice for some people. But they are wholly, utterly and completely empty gestures," he said.​

Williams and BLM Phoenix Metro says it has been working to eliminate police brutality within the Phoenix Police Department and other agencies in Arizona.​

"We sort of are up against a trifecta," Williams said. "We have an out of control carceral system that imprisons our people at extraordinary rates. We have a law enforcement apparatus county-wide that has no significant accountability measures, or transparency measures. And we have elected officials who just turn their backs on doing anything about these problems."​

While he says the approval of the full funding of the newly formed Phoenix Citizen Review Board is a win for the movement, he is says it is decades late.​

"That's a measure that American cities were doing in the 90s," he said.​ And he is concerned about deals that could be made behind the scenes.​

"Potentially a road block is for the new office that's been created is whatever negotiations have been going on with PLEA (the Phoenix police union) and the city and some of the things they are going to want to add to that contract that are going to present some obstacles in the way that board functions when created."​

Williams says the legislature has a role in accountability and transparency too, beginning with not allowing additions to the so-called Peace Officer's Bill of Rights.​

"There's no reason an officer should be provided greater protections than any normal person walking the streets of Arizona and Phoenix," Williams said.​

Some agencies also allow for the purging of discipline records after a few years. Williams says a state law could fix that.

"To make sure that those records are collected so that we can identify problematic officers and make sure that they are being held accountable for their misconduct," he said.​

BLM also supports a state law limiting qualified immunity which is a legal argument that reduces liability for officers in cases of police violence.​

But he says those changes are the bare minimum. And the next steps will be to pressure city councils to start moving money from police departments to social, mental health services and job creation.​

"We're asking to defund the police department," Williams said. "Because we want resources for our people. We want programs we can actually use. And we want to be thinking about the future."