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Phoenix police will track all gunpoint incidents

Posted: 6:35 PM, Aug 19, 2019
Updated: 2019-08-19 23:28:45-04
Phoenix Police

PHOENIX — The Phoenix Police Department will now track every time officers point guns at people, considering the act a use-of-force, after rejecting the idea in previous years.

"I think it's traumatic to have to pull your weapon; I think it's traumatic for the person who's the recipient of the weapons being on them," said Carol Coles Henry, a co-chairperson of Phoenix Community Police Trust Initiative in 2015.

The team made a recommendation to require officers to report every time they point a gun at a person. Back then, the Phoenix Police Department called the idea "concerning because it has the potential to significantly affect officers' decision making processes during critical incidents." It was not implemented at that time.

Four years later, there is a shift in philosophy at the Phoenix Police Department after public outcry and community meetings about officers' use-of-force.

In one incident, a witness videotaped a Phoenix officer holding a pregnant woman and her children at gunpoint during a shoplifting investigation.

RELATED VIDEO: Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams addresses excessive use of force and shoplifting video gone viral

A policy effective Monday requires officers to indicate every time they point a gun at a person in their police report system as a use of force. A supervisor must also be notified. If officers accurately document when and why they pulled their weapons, the data can be analyzed.

"Our updated records management system now allows us to track these incidents and will allow us to have a real idea of how many times our officers are able to successfully de-escalate an incident in a situation with the potential of deadly force," Police Chief Jeri Williams said.

City leaders and community members could also use the data to learn how often this use-of-force happens, to whom, and whether other tactics could have used instead.

"This gives an opportunity to tell the story factually," Coles Henry said

Phoenix police supervisors told ABC15 that policies on when officers can draw weapons remain unchanged. "Usually it's applied to the legal standard of when they can use deadly force to prevent serious physical injury or harm to another - death to another person," Sgt. Vernon Brink said.

Phoenix officers may also draw their weapons during a high-risk traffic stop, during SAU [SWAT] operations, or when they clear a building.