NewsPhoenix Metro NewsCentral Phoenix News


Phoenix officials seek to ease distrust of police department after viral video

Posted at 2:21 PM, Jul 02, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-03 01:19:28-04

PHOENIX — Citizens sounded off about troubles with the Phoenix Police Department Tuesday as city leaders met to consider how to best hold officers accountable and rebuild trust.

The meeting started with a presentation from Chief Jeri Williams. She outlined action points in five categories, including better-communicating expectations to officers and improving technology.

The City Council voted to commission a public opinion survey about the police department and buy new software to detect troubling officer behavior in time for early intervention. The software would monitor data on use of force, internal affairs, training, performance evaluation, and community engagement.

"The goal, and I know I speak for many of the members of the council, is to ensure that our public safety officers and community members make it home safely each night," Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego said.

The survey would likely be conducted by a third party and would allow the community "to help guide the creation of policies and strategies for the police department."

The conversation is far from over though, as the council just voted to move forward with creating a vendor list.

Some members of the council and community spoke out against the survey, saying the department already knows what the community thinks and should act without spending more time gathering opinions.

"The expectation is perfection. I said last week that's not realistic. I think by and large with 3.2 million interactions we're probably getting excellent service," said Vice Mayor and councilmember Jim Waring, who repeatedly sparred with activists in attendance and argued that money should not be spent appeasing, what he deemed, a small percentage of outspoken critics.

"Why do a survey if you already know what’s wrong," asked Dravon Ames, who attended the meeting.

Ames, his fiance Iesha Harper, and their children were held at gunpoint after report of shoplifting. In multiple witness videos, officers are screaming obscenities, kicking Ames' leg, and grabbing Harper as she holds onto her baby.

ABC15 has learned that Ames, Harper and their attorneys told Phoenix police on Tuesday that they want the officers in the video to be prosecuted.

FULL SECTION: Phoenix shoplifting use of force

Attorney Tom Horne said one of the detectives investigating the case internally reached out to ask the couple if they wanted to participate.

"It was the desire of our clients that the police officers be prosecuted," said Horne, former Attorney General for the State of Arizona. "The important thing really is to make sure this never happens again, and we think the prosecution will make sure that it doesn't happen again."

The family said they continue to speak out to hopefully prevent other families from having a similar experience, but Ames was not overly optimistic when asked if he thinks the police department and county attorney will work together to press charges.

"Honestly, the way things of been going for so many years, I don't think [any]thing is going to happen to these officers. And that's my biggest fear honestly, that officers are not going to be held accountable and they are going to keep feeling like they can do whatever."

Williams told the council she heard community members "loudly and clearly" during recent public meetings that saw many blacks and Hispanics angrily describe their own encounters with officers.

The chief received applause from some members of the public when she announced she was working to streamline the release of incident reports.

Relatives of people killed in police-involved shootings in Phoenix have complained that months later they still have not received reports of what happened to their loved ones. One family reported having to file a lawsuit to get a report.

The meeting concluded with an hours-long discussion about implementing a new Police Department Civilian Review Board, which has been brought up and recommended in the past.

"It is time to stop kicking the can down the road! There are people in this city that do not feel safe," said one man who addressed the council. "Let's stop playing politics and start talking about real solutions."

Many community members spoke in favor of the board, but others suggested it was unnecessary and redundant since citizens already sit on some boards that review police conduct.

"I suggest that you ask yourselves, what is wrong with the existing procedures? Are there cases where there was no discipline because of a shoddy investigation," asked Britt London, President of the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association (PLEA).

"We already have a use of force and personnel review board. We have review boards. We have already told them about body cameras," said Rev. Jarrett Maupin. "Every single thing they’re talking about came up in the internal report in 2015. This meeting is a bunch of malarkey."

In the end, the council did not vote on the civilian review board but will continue to discuss the topic.