Amid interviews for Office of Accountability and Transparency, Phoenix activists question the office's role

The question of how to handle complaints of Phoenix Police officer misconduct will fall to the newly-created 'Office of Accountability and Transparency,' which was established following a close 5-4 vote by the Phoenix City Council in May 2021.

The office will review use of force investigations and weigh in on police training, discipline an hiring practices, and on the night of Sept. 30, members of the community heard from three finalists vying for that office.

"I want to be able to start doing investigations in six months, whether it's every single case or high profile cases or identified by community," said candidate Andrew Myerberg. He is currently the Director of the Seattle office of Police Accountability. According to city officials, Myerberg is involved in about 400 investigative decisions annually.

"It's important to start building those relationships within the Phoenix community right away," said candidate Erin Ellison. She is the Senior Director of the Officer of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Arizona State University, overseeing investigations into discrimination, harassment and retaliation.

Roger smith – administrator of the office of professional standards in cleveland – his office investigates up to 300 misconduct allegations against cleveland police annually

"We need effective investigators. We will need an effective research analyst to communicate in our reports," said candidate Roger Smith, currently the Administrator of the Officer of Professional Standards with the City of Cleveland. The office, according to Phoenix city officials, investigates 200 to 300 allegations of misconduct against Cleveland Police officers every year.

Some community leaders question the office's role

About $3 million have been budgeted for the OAT. While some activists have said it is a much needed tool, prominent activist and former Missouri lawmaker Bruce Franks Jr. said he is not satisfied with the language that outlines the OAT's duties.

Ahead of the vote in May, community members felt they were not being heard.

"The community, the movement, the folks that fought for it right, the folks that understand the analysis of this dynamic that we have when it comes to law enforcement," Franks Jr., who is the Electoral Justice Director for Mass Liberation AZ.

In the meantime, the U.S. Department of Justice is investigating Phoenix Police for how officers use types of force, as well as allegations of retaliation against protesters. Franks Jr. said protestors sounded the alarm on Phoenix Police long before this.

"Follow the leadership of directly Black-impacted organizers who have been trying to tell y’all what’s going on," said Franks Jr. "Center on directly impacted people because those who are closest to the problem are closest to the solution."

Finalists will participate in a panel interview with leadership in the City Manager’s Office before a decision is made on who becomes the OAT's director.

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