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Arizona bills to limit who can provide police oversight

Phoenix Police
Posted at 7:04 PM, Apr 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-06 11:58:45-04

PHOENIX — Two bills that could get a final vote in the Arizona Legislature this week would limit local efforts to create civilian review boards for policing.

The bills, backed by police unions, are pushback after protests demanding greater citizen oversight of police departments and other reforms in the months since George Floyd died in Minneapolis police custody.

"I'm not throwing cops to the wolves, especially politically motivated wolves," said state Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills.

Kavanagh is sponsoring House Bill 2567, which would require any board that investigates or disciplines police officers to have sworn police officers as two-thirds of its membership.

House Bill 2462 would require members of any civilian review board, regardless of their powers, to have at least 80 hours of community college or AZPOST-certified police training. The training must include 20 hours of simulated event training, such as shoot/don't shoot scenarios. The training would be the equivalent of two weeks of the 20-week police academy and the state would not provide funding to pay for the required training.

Civilian police boards can have several functions including reviewing officer use-of-force incidents, making suggestions about police policy, or investigating citizen complaints. Often these boards audit or review completed police department internal investigations and do not directly discipline officers.

Most major U.S. cities and some Arizona cities, like Chandler and Tucson, already have these police oversight boards. Phoenix City Council funded an Office of Accountability and Transparency last year, which was to include a citizen review board, but the council has yet to come to an agreement on the details.

If these bills become law, critics say people most affected by policing - people of color in working-class neighborhoods - would find significant barriers to joining a citizen review board.

"If you have the time and the money, you also have to qualify for the program, in order to get the training, which again, requires a certain amount of education, it effectively eliminates anyone who's not a police officer," said Tim Sparling with Arizona Attorneys for Criminal Justice.

The League of Arizona Cities and Towns opposed the bills saying local governments already determine for themselves the appropriate membership and training for police oversight boards.

"We think the requirements for these boards are a bridge too far and will have a chilling effect on who could participate on these boards," Rozanna Pitones from the League of Arizona Cities and Towns said during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in March.

Police union leaders deny those criticisms.

"This bill does not block anybody," said Arizona Police Association President Joe Clure at the March committee hearing. "The bill trains people, educates people on what police officers do on a day-to-day basis."

Both police review board bills have passed the Arizona House on a party-line vote. They could receive a final vote in the Senate as early as this week before heading to the governor's desk for his signature.