Phoenix City Council divided over police oversight board proposal

A police civilian oversight office that is fully funded and approved by the City of Phoenix still can't get off the ground, as the Mayor of Phoenix and other members of the Phoenix City Council can't seem to agree on a plan to set it up and staff it.

Plans for an oversight office came about in the aftermath of a viral video that shows Phoenix Police officers holding Dravon Ames and his family at gunpoint, yelling obscenities after a shoplifting complaint. In February 2020, members of the Phoenix City Council approved the Office of Accountability and Transparency (OAT) to investigate officers when needed, and in June the same year, a $3 million budget was approved after several protests sparked by the killing of Gorge Floyd.

On Nov. 18, however, two motions related to the OAT - the original ordinance and a substitute motion by Councilmember Laura Pastor - failed. The plan is now back on the drawing board.

The proposed ordinance for the police oversight office did not meet the mark for some Phoenix residents, as 40 of them made their voices heard during a city council meeting.

Some residents were not happy with the language in the draft. The plan says the OAT would be staffed by city employees, and will work under a director. The terms "monitor" and "participate" are used in regards to investigations of police misconduct. Meanwhile, activists and community members claim they had no input in the ordinance since OAT's inception.

"Yet here we are, nine months later community members and family members who have the most expertise of what this process is have been actively excluded from this process," Viri Hernandez, Executive Director of Poder In Action, was heard saying during a meeting.

Councilmember Carlos Garcia was one of the four yes votes cast during the meeting. He has always wanted a community review board attached to the OAT.

"It's a tool that's only gonna work so long as communities are engaged and work alongside with it and eventually trust it," said Garcia.

Five city councilmembers, including Sal DiCiccio, voted no, killing the motion. DiCiccio called the motion "anti-police,"

"Like Minneapolis, Portland or Seattle, where they got nothing but havoc going on there, that's what all this is about," said DiCiccio. "This is hidden in a basically a language of trying to make it sound good, when in fact, it's all part of a national movement to destroy our police department, destroy our citizenry, and make our citizens unsafe."

DiCiccio said he is pushing for the entire Phoenix community to vote on so-called "reasonable oversight" of police. Meanwhile, Mayor Kate Gallego, who supported the ordinance, had a bit of an exchange with DiCiccio, saying she knows he is trying to delay oat's implementation.