Arizona Democrats seek police reform, offer suggestions

PHOENIX (AP) — Democratic lawmakers in Arizona have asked Republican Gov. Doug Ducey to call a special session to address police reform in the state following the death of George Floyd, according to a letter.

“The disparate treatment of people of color by law enforcement is a serious issue that will require hard work by all of us to overcome,” the letter signed by Senate and House lawmakers said.

The Democrats’ letter came after demonstrations erupted across the country over the death of Floyd, a black man who died after the officer pressed his knee into his neck for several minutes even after he stopped moving and pleading for air.

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Hundreds of people in Phoenix have been arrested during protests denouncing Floyd’s death and police shootings.

Ducey is expected to call a special session to discuss issues related to the coronavirus, which has led to more than 900 deaths, 21,000 cases of COVID-19 and mass unemployment.

One of the requests in the letter suggests all police officers in the state should be required to wear body cameras.

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“Body cameras provide an objective alternative viewpoint for the protection and safety for the public and officers,” the letter said. The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office and the Mesa and Flagstaff police departments currently equip officers with body cameras.

In January, Ducey called for lawmakers to allocate funds to the state Department of Public Safety so it could buy on-body cameras. The proposal passed the House but did not get a vote in the Senate in the session that was shortened by the pandemic.

Other requests in the letter include providing training on de-escalation by the state board that certifies officers and limiting officers’ qualified immunity against lawsuits.

Ducey spokesman Patrick Ptak has said the governor has talked to community leaders and lawmakers with both parties on the issue and he appreciates the Democrats’ thoughtfulness.

Rep. Reginald Bolding said, “We have to make sure there is a relationship between community and police and there is trust on all sides. The only way you get trust is through transparency accountability and making sure we have training."

Bolding represents District 27 and is supporting this call to action.

"This is not a partisan issue. There are people getting killed, this is a pandemic, a crisis and in order to meet the moment we have to stand up and take action," he said.

In the letter, Democrats call for action in several ways. In addition to the body cameras and de-escalation training, they want external investigations for deadly use of force incidents and cultural sensitivity training.

The letter also calls for a police officer database.

“For officers, many agencies don’t have access to that. So you have officers who jump from one department to another and you don’t find out until after a shooting that this officer has had a long list of incidents in the past," Bolding said.

The lawmaker says he has not heard yet if their request for a session will be granted. A spokesperson for the Republican Party did not have a comment on the matter.