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Phoenix police release final report on President Trump protests

Posted at 10:09 PM, Jan 29, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-30 08:58:29-05

The Phoenix Police Department on Monday released its final report on how officers handled the presidential protests this past summer.

Chief Jeri Williams said, ultimately, nobody died, and there was no major property damage. She calls that a success. 

"As each officer hit the ground I personally briefed the officers hitting the ground to be professional, decisive, and immediately responsive," said Chief Williams.

But for the first time, she is admitting that police were not perfect that night. She said the department could have used better communication in warning thousands of peaceful protesters that officers were about to use force to deal with a handful of troublemakers

"In my police brain, when I see people lined up in riot gear that tells me that things can progress and go one way," said Chief Williams, who had previously said police putting on riot gear should have alerted people that use of force was imminent. "But what I learned [since the protest] is that not every community member thinks that way."

The American Civil Liberties Union said that realization, on its own, is not enough.

"It doesn't answer the basic question about how they're going to train officers to prevent this from happening. It creates a chilling effect and people are going to be really worried when they go out to the next protest," said Alessandra Soler, executive director of the ACLU Arizona. 

Meantime, Chief Williams said the entire police response was aimed at just a handful of people they identified as the group Antifa, who were throwing things at police and trying to tear down barricades. She said the protesters throwing gas prompted police to do the same, trying to disperse the crowd rather than start making arrests. 

"When we think about the optics of policing, the optics of offices going hands-on with anybody in that crowd without us being sure and having probable cause to arrest, that's not a good optic," said Williams, adding that dispersing a crowd is the safest option for everyone in that situation.     

There were five arrests that night.

PHOTOS: President Trump visits Phoenix

Chief Williams said they're already working on educating people on police responses and putting a better mass communication plan together that would include texting and social media.  

In all, the president's visit cost the City of Phoenix more than a half million dollars in overtime costs for public safety.