City of Phoenix moves forward on proposal to study police shootings

PHOENIX - It's mid-June, and there have already been 46 officer-involved shootings in the Valley, more than half of them in the city of Phoenix.

Now the city has agreed to spend $150,000 to conduct a study looking into this alarming spike in police shootings. 

The study will be done by the Washington D.C. based National Police Foundation and Arizona State University.

Phoenix police chief Jeri Williams called it a good first step while facing a heated crowd in a public safety commission meeting held Wednesday morning.

"I don't know why this is happening and that is why I am coming to you all, asking for the opportunity to be able to look into this," Williams said, addressing elected officials and a room full of concerned residents who showed up to voice their opinions.

MAP: See where officer-involved shootings have occurred in the Valley in 2018

Some said they felt another study was just a big waste of money.

"We've done studies. We've had the community conversations. All of that is a diversion to take attention away from the fact that we have the most lethal police force in the country," said JJ Johnson, president of the Black Phoenix Institute.

Johnson added he had researched police-involved shootings in other states and noted that New York City has had just two so far this year, compared to 26 in Phoenix.

"They have four times the population we do. I think the training we have given our officers is terribly flawed. We are either putting them in situations much too quickly or not giving them the tools that they need to make sure that everybody goes home," Johnson said.

Ken Crane, president of the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association, represents the city's 2,000 officers.

Crane said they too wanted to know why there was a spike in shootings, but he did not believe the police were the problem.

"Our officers do not get up every day and go out saying I hope this is the day I get to pull the trigger. That is not true; most officers hope to go an entire career without having to pull the trigger," Crane said.

"I think there is a problem with escalating violence toward police officers," he added.

Both Crane and the police chief got an earful from concerned community members at the meeting.

"I'm fearful every day of my life, every time an officer rolls up on me. My message to police is very simple. Just stop killing us. Stop shooting us," said Parris Wallace, a spokesman for Black Lives Matter.

Johnson added it was time for the elected officials to fire those at the top.

"Get rid of the chief. Give her a pink slip. Get rid of Ed Zuercher, that city manager has been around way too long," Johnson said.

The study is expected to begin in July.

Chief Jeri Williams added that her department was looking into placing mental health counselors in dispatch and in patrol cars, so they could work closely with officers out in the field, dealing with people who appear unstable.

Crane added the police association also did not believe a $150,000 study was the answer. He feels the money would be better spent in starting an aggressive campaign addressing public safety.

Phoenix City Councilman Michael Nowakowski who was part of the public safety commission said they would look into creating a victim's fund to help family members of those who lost their lives in police-involved shootings.

The Phoenix City Council will now have to vote on the proposal. 

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