PHOENIX — The Phoenix Police Department is continuing to work on their community relations.
Chief Jeri Williams revealed at a community meeting Tuesday night, that leaders within the department are traveling to other cities in the next week to learn best practices.
The group will go to Denver, Washington D.C. and Aurora. Chief Williams said they will be looking at things like report writing, hiring, training, and even how to work with the community “after a crisis.”
A group of dozens of community members met at First Institutional Baptist Church for a “police-community listening session.”
“I’ve decided I don’t want to talk to the media. I want to hear from you all, and process what you are coming up with,” said Chief Williams, who addressed the group and then left.
Chief Williams said she did not stay for the meeting because she wanted people to be honest with their feedback and suggestions. She told ABC15 that she plans to go over all the input and meet with people in attendance.
“Our department is eager, we are anxious, we are excited, but we understand we have some internal work to do,” she said. “I am excited to hear what you all come up within your groups.”
Chief Williams’ department has been soul searching and soliciting input after they had the most officer-involved shootings in the country in 2018.
They garnered more national attention this year for their use of force towards an African American family accused of shoplifting from a dollar store.
In mid-June, the chief was booed at the first community listening session, where tensions ran high and a church was packed with thousands.
Months later, the crowd was smaller and more focused on solutions. “I think the last event was important, it gave people the opportunity to vent and get out that raw emotion. But now is the time to make a plan. What are we going to do to fix this?” said Jay Tinsley, who has lived in Phoenix for roughly seven years. “One of the things that we talked about is creating more opportunities for positive engagement between the community and law enforcement.”
The dozens of people were divided into groups and told to discuss their experiences and make suggestions.
“The notes are going to go straight to Chief Williams and we expect her to implement them in her next steps to change the culture of police in Phoenix,” said Warren Stewart Jr, the event organizer and a pastor with First Institutional Baptist Church.
Chief Williams told the group she is committed to making changes and said many in her department have expressed their desire for a culture shift.
“I think it’s important to learn from other police departments about what they’ve done well, but Phoenix is a particular place, and you have residents here who have ideas and interact with police on the daily. So combining those two will hopefully lead us to solutions,” said Councilman Carlos Garcia, who attended the meeting.
“We can just protest we have to make some progress,” said Stewart Jr.
Phoenix police tell ABC15 they also asked the Department of Justice to come to help with their community relations efforts.
It is unknown how the two agencies are working together or what future involvement the DOJ may have in Phoenix.