NewsPhoenix Metro NewsCentral Phoenix News


Should Phoenix police have a citizen review board? Citizens weight-in for and against

Posted at 7:10 PM, Nov 19, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-19 23:38:34-05

PHOENIX — Will Phoenix get more citizen oversight over police? If so, what would a citizen review board look like?

On Tuesday, members of the public were able to voice their opinions both for and against such a board during a policy meeting held by city council members at council chambers in downtown Phoenix.

Dozens of people -- mostly those in support of more police oversight -- showed up to voice their concerns.

"A lot of the people that were murdered by police, they were 911 calls for support for mental health," said Maria Castro, who is with the community organization, "Puente Arizona."

For those in support of police, they said police officers were doing a fine job and no additional oversight was needed in the city.

"There is a war on cops in this country and the citizen review board that the anti-cop movement wants is another attack on our law enforcement," said Nohl Rosen, the founder of "Rally for Law Enforcement."

The debate inside council chambers was opinionated. It is the next step toward the possible creation of a citizen oversight committee that would oversee incidents involving police misconduct and use of force.

It is a conversation that started in March after multiple use-of-force incidents involving the Phoenix Police Department were brought to light, including the case of Drayvon Ames, a man who was handcuffed when a police officer swept his legs out from under him.

In October, Phoenix police chief Jeri Williams announced that officer Christopher Meyer had been terminated. A second officer who apparently yelled at Ames' pregnant fiancee and her children was disciplined, but was not fired. Both officers can appeal those disciplinary actions.

Isabel Garcia, a member of "Poder in Action," said she was devastated after watching that video.

"You are always thinking is my brother going to be next, is it going to be my cousin?" she said.

Others believe a citizens review board is not the answer.

Michael "Britt" London, president of the Phoenix police officer's association, told ABC15 there are already citizens serving on several boards already present in the city.

He said he would not be opposed to discussing the expansion of those boards to include more citizens, but he felt an independent civilian review board was unnecessary and reactionary on the part of city officials.

"Absolutely it's reactionary. The squeaky wheel gets the grease right," said London.

As part of their discussion, city council members are mulling what a possible citizen's review board would look like and how much power it would have.

They have looked at similar boards in other cities. In one model, citizens act as a monitor. In others, the board is more independent and conduct their own investigations -- even possessing subpoena powers to compel an officer to testify.

Kathryn Kobor spoke at the meeting. One of her biggest concerns is ensuring the board is not one-sided.

"Who's going to be on the citizen's review board? Liberals leftists? What they're trying to do is de-police the city," she said.

Those who strongly supported an independent review board with subpoena powers said they were more worried about recent police actions, and the 44 police shootings in Phoenix last year, which set a record in the city.

"When a mom calls 911 because her son needs mental health support, he should not be dead," said Castro, of "Puente Arizona."

Rosen, who supports police officers and is against a citizen review board, said those worried about police using force should follow the law.

"You don't have a problem getting arrested if you're actually obeying the law," he said.

Garcia, of "Poder In Action," said "we say the police aren't even obeying the law, they don't even follow their own protocols."

Several council members expressed interest in learning more about the citizen review board set up in Denver, Colorado. No action was taken at Tuesday's meeting.

A spokesperson for the City of Phoenix told ABC15 there would be more policy meetings regarding this issue and it is not known when a vote about implementing or not implementing a citizen review board would take place.

Mayor Kate Gallego indicated a decision could be made sometime next year.