PHOENIX (KSAZ) - Phoenix Police Chief Yahner says officers escalated their response after the crowd escalated their plans.
The pepper-spray was deployed to prevent protesters from going on to the freeway. In the end, the Chief says he's proud of the outcome, and his officers, for keeping their calm as protesters hurled rocks and profanities at them.
What started as a peaceful march turned into a confrontation at the end. There were tense moments as activists came face to face with Phoenix Police.
"We formed a skirmish line and gave multiple. Many, many warnings to disperse. I'm proud of the professionalism the police officers exhibited because they were called every name in the book," said Chief Joe Yahner.
"I was standing 15 feet from one of our officers who got hit with a very large river rock. It was at that time the peace turned to criminal conduct, and we deployed some pepper balls," said Yahner.
Several rocks were thrown at officers; minor injuries were reported. Three protesters were ultimately arrested.
Phoenix Police is expanding their community relations bureau, putting another 25 officers in the unit as they continue to reach out to black community leaders.
"There's always been concerns with race relations and police work and probably always will be. We have an African-American advisory board that I meet with all the time. Not all the time but quarterly to bring information forward so we can address whatever race relations issues that we have. As long as we're working to address them that's the key," said Yahner.
Chief Yahner will attend a community meeting. The meeting is a listening session for people to voice their concerns and frustration with the Phoenix Police Department.