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New committee makes recommendations on how to reform Phoenix PD

Posted at 11:33 PM, Aug 20, 2020

PHOENIX — For years there has been talk about reforming the Phoenix Police Department. The conversation and calls for change intensified after the Valley police force led the country in officer-involved shootings and high profile incidents, like a black family held at gunpoint.

In July of 2019, Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego created "The Review and Implementation Ad Hoc Committee." The group is comprised of two council members and 17 community members. They spent months reviewing prior recommendations, reports and studies commissioned by the department and city, then came up with their own recommendations.

On Thursday the group shared the recommendations publicly and heard hours of contentious community feedback.

The group focused on six main areas and offered suggestions to implement immediately. Many of the recommendations are progressive and aim to make the department more accountable, transparent, and focused on public service as opposed to enforcement.

For 'Community Engagement' the group recommended "multi-million dollar investments" to better respond to those in a mental health crisis. They also suggested 'Participatory Budgeting,' which would allow the community to decide how to spend portions of the department's budget.

For 'Policy and Oversight' the group, which included members of local activist groups like Poder In Action, recommended:
"...updating the Phoenix Police Departments Use of Force Operations Order to better reflect the deficiencies in the Use of Force Project analysis banning chokeholds and strangleholds, requiring de-escalation, requiring exhausting all alternatives before shooting, and banning shooting at moving vehicles as well as: Updating the “Sanctity of Life” clause to reflect a commitment to the preservation of life and use of less-than-lethal force in every instance possible with the wording, “The primary duty of all police officers is to preserve human life. Only the minimal amount of force necessary to protect the life or to effect an arrest should be used by an officer. Excessive force and/or gratuitous use of any force will not be tolerated."

The committee also called for the "end the practice of purging an officer’s disciplinary records, including in contracts negotiated with the police unions."

'Reporting' was also a topic where the committee called for serious change.

Specifically, they said:
"Officers need to report the outcome of every traffic stop / arrest / use of force / in-custody death, including the following: reason for stop, date of interaction, location, race, ethnicity, gender, age, outcome of interaction (including charges filed housing status of person, indicate if was ICE called, time interaction began and ended.'

They also advocate for increased 'Training' in the following areas:
a) "Implicit bias, procedural justice, relationship-based policing, community interaction, crisis intervention, mediation, conflict resolution, and rumor control."

b) "Appropriate engagement with youth, LGBTQ and gender non-conforming individuals, English language learners, individuals from different religious affiliations and that are differently-abled."
c) De-escalation tactics, minimizing the use of force, lowering the temperature of an interaction to reduce the need for physical and/or firearm use, and managing stressful situations."
d) "Scenario-based formats that are better aligned and balanced with more common scenarios observed in OIS data."

For 'Staffing' there was a recommendation for "a greater emphasis of non-police interventions, including review of police units like the Special Assignment Unit (SAU) and Party Crew" as well as more Community Action Officers.

Finally, there was a 'Citywide' recommendation that called on the department's officers to seek and "prioritize least harm options of enforcement in all situations... and prioritizing 'cite and release' options over 'arrest and send to the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office'." They also suggest strict tracking of interactions, and cooperation, with Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE).

These recommendations are far from new. One member of the committee said almost all of them have been brought to the department in the past, but rarely implemented.

The group's final point is about following through with action and accountability:

"Ensure implementation of these and prior recommendations through a tab on the Phoenix PD website that links to a dashboard of recommendations...List recommendations and where they stand regarding Council review, Phoenix PD review, and implementation."

The public comments were immediately passionate, divided and chock-full of the rhetoric that has polarized the country on this topic.

A leader with the Phoenix Police Sergeants and Lieutenants Association said "Many of these seem to be in line with defunding and dismantling the police, which we have in effect [done] by not keeping up with population."

Like many pro-law enforcement speakers, the officer said that the recommendations, and the group of 19 that compiled them, do "not speak to the entire will of our community."

But if recent protests in downtown Phoenix were any indication, the calls for reform, accountability and transparency are growing. The question now is will the Phoenix police department push back, slow play or bury these recommendations?

Many of their officers will likely not be in favor of the increased paperwork and oversight. Or will they choose to comply with their Democrat mayor's desire to have a more progressive department with a 'guardian' mentality instead of a 'warrior' mindset?