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Chandler citizen review board working to hold officers' accountable

Posted at 9:45 PM, Oct 03, 2019
and last updated 2020-06-13 20:07:56-04

CHANDLER, AZ — In Chandler, a panel of citizens keeps tabs on officers' actions to ensure the police are meeting the community's expectations.

Fifteen Chandler residents from retirees to millennials serve on the Citizens' Panel for Review of Police Complaints and Use of Force. They are appointed by the mayor and hold quarterly public meetings to review police incident summaries, watch body-worn camera videos, and even see demonstrations of police techniques. The panel was formed 19 years ago.

The panelists review every incident where a Chandler officer uses force to subdue a person. The cases range from pepper-spraying to shootings. There are 80 to 100 of these encounters a year. The panel makes recommendations to the police chief concerning training programs, changing policies or procedures, and preventative or corrective measures, but they do not get involved in employee discipline.

"We get to pushback if we think it's necessary if there are more questions that need to be raised from the community perspective," Chairman Frank Slate said.

Panelist Sarah Zamora said police department leadership "want to make sure our opinions are heard because we are representing the City of Chandler."

In their October meeting, the panelists talked about a case that was referred to the police professional standards bureau because the officer punched a person on the back. The panel also asked why the lieutenants don't wear body cameras. Police Chief Sean Duggan, who was sitting in the audience, said he would likely request the cameras in next year's budget.

Chandler is one of just a handful of Arizona cities that have a civilian review of its police force. The City of Phoenix is considering several new options for police oversight, including a similar review board.

"I think it brings a great level of trust and respect. They know that we’re not trying to hide anything," Chief Duggan said. "There’s a whole different level of appreciation, understanding, and respect for what our officers do."

"It makes me feel safer in my community," Zamora said.