PHOENIX - The Phoenix City Council has voted 5-4 to establish the Office of Accountability and Transparency, a board that would provide civilian oversight of police.
"The OAT will have the ability to have independent investigations and will create greater transparency for the Phoenix Police Department," Vice Mayor Carlos Garcia said.
It would also monitor or participate in investigations of members of the department, provide recommendations for training, policy, hiring practices, disciplinary actions, and other oversight on behalf of the community.
"We are making a powerful commitment to improve the relationship between law enforcement and the people of Phoenix," said Mayor Kate Gallego in a statement. "Today’s creation of the Office of Accountability and Transparency is an enormous positive step – alongside many others – that we have recently taken to improve accountability."
Activists have said the civilian review board is something the city has needed for a long time, while critics have called it an attack on police.
District 1 Councilwoman Ann O'Brien opposed the council's decision.
"For one the ordinance…is being mandated to employ a future director and staff members who don’t have a background in law enforcement, or any family members who previously served in law enforcement," O'Brien said. "Essentially, we’re creating an office to work in tandem with our police department, but [do] not have any background or experience in how these types of investigations work or are carried out."
Phoenix Vice Mayor Carlos Garcia said the move could help provide closure for some of the families who have lost someone in police incidents.
"This office may not stop future families from going through what some of the families that we talked to today have," Garcia said. "But at the minimum we’ll be able to be responsive to them, and help them figure out...get some closure."
"We are hopeful that the Office of Accountability and Transparency will provide some relief, some recourse to families who have been subjected to police violence and police misconduct who have lost their loved ones because of murder at the hands of [the] Phoenix Police Department," said Jamaar Williams of Black Lives Matter Phoenix Metro.
"We are allowing these attacks on the police officers, driving down morale, we are making it very difficult for these police officers to do their job," Phoenix City Councilman Sal DiCiccio said.
The Phoenix Law Enforcement Association issued the following statement:
We are extremely disappointed that the Phoenix City Council chose to ignore the concerns of local law enforcement and establish a new political entity that will continue the divisive narrative against our men and women in uniform. Our existing mechanisms provide civilian oversight with the opportunity to question officers in Discipline Review Boards and Use of Force Boards.
Let me be abundantly clear: we support transparency and accountability, and we’ve worked diligently with community leaders on real solutions. Yet, this effort to create the Office of Accountability and Transparency is led by activist organizations that seek to eliminate our police department and implement their own progressive agenda.
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