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Phoenix community leaders talk about police reform, protesting bill

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Posted at 4:36 PM, Apr 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-21 20:28:19-04

PHOENIX — A group of activists gathered at the Capitol Wednesday calling for police reform.

Phoenix leaders from the Black Mothers Forum, NOCAP Coalition and Unity Collective said the Derek Chauvin verdict Tuesday was about accountability, and that's something they want to see more of in Arizona when it comes to policing.

"It took an entire year of protests; it took an entire year of making the subject matter household knowledge to bring about this one verdict. So much needs to be done," said Jacob Raiford from the NOCAP Coalition.

"We're here to call for the decriminalization of blackness," said Janelle Wood with Black Mothers Forum.

Each organization has been working to implement new policies in Arizona cities and police departments.

"Instead of being reactive, we seek to be proactive," said Raiford.

NOCAP Coalition has been pushing for the creation of a community-based crisis assistance program that would provide an alternative to policing for non-emergency calls. It'd mirror the CAHOOTS model and the Portland Street Team program.

Wood said they wanted departments to prioritize building relationships between officers and community members and called on chiefs to get rid of officers with a history of abusing power.

"I am not anti-police officers. I'm against anti a system that continues to give officers power and authority to hurt and harm and kill our children if they so choose and get away with it," said Wood.

The group also had a message for Governor Doug Ducey, who could soon decide the fate of HB 2309. The bill would give police more discretion and power to punish protesters. It'd create a new felony offense and significantly increase penalties for minor crimes if officers declare that an assembly is unlawful and violent.

"These same people who believe they have the right to free speech, want to take ours away and want to criminalize it," said Sarah Tyree, the criminal justice chair with the West Valley NAACP.

"Ultimately it criminalizes blackness. It criminalizes our first amendment, it criminalizes our right to assemble, it criminalizes our right to free speech," said Kenneth Smith with Unity Collective.

Many of these leaders have met with city, police and state leaders since the summer, including Governor Ducey.

ABC15 has a new solution-focused reporting project to address systemic problems in Arizona policing and push leaders to fix them. To learn more, click here.