Phoenix seeing more officer-involved shootings this year than at the same time in 2022: Here's what to know

As of Mar. 14, 2023, there are more Phoenix Police officer-involved shootings than there were at the same time in 2022, based on an analysis of data made available by the Phoenix Police Department, in addition to our news reports.

The police shootings are happening as Phoenix Police Department remains the subject of an investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice over whether officers have been using excessive force. Meanwhile, some community members are asking why there have been so many police encounters that end with a shooting.

Here's what you should know about what's happening.

How many police shootings are there for Phoenix so far this year?

Since Jan. 1, 2023, there have been 10 police shootings that involve Phoenix Police officers.

The incidents happened on:

It should be noted that while the shooting on Jan. 7 happened in Tempe, we have learned that it involved a Phoenix Police officer.

Meanwhile, the shooting on Mar. 4 involved a Phoenix Police officer who, in the words of Sergeant Phil Krynsky, was "working in an off-duty capacity in full uniform."

From Jan. 1 to Mar. 12, 2022, there were six shooting involving Phoenix Police officers, according to data made available online by Phoenix city officials.

What are Phoenix Police officials saying about the shootings?

"We are all very aware of how many officer involved shootings that we have," said Sgt. Melissa Soliz with the Phoenix Police Department. "It's concerning."

Sgt. Soliz said the use of deadly force has been in a reactionary manner.

"These are violent attacks our officers are reacting," said Sgt. Soliz. "They're not going to these calls assuming it's going to be an officer-involved shooting."

In 2022, several changes were made at the Phoenix Police Department, from a new interim police chief, Michael Sullivan, to the creation of an Office of Accountability and Transparency that is supposed to monitor and review critical incident investigations. 

On Mar. 8, we made several attempts to speak with Interim Police Chief Sullivan and the Director of the Office of Accountability and Transparency, Roger Smith. We were told neither were available on that day to comment on the story.

On Mar. 9, however, we managed to speak with Interim Police Chief Sullivan.

"It's been a tough two weeks," Interim Chief Sullivan said. "The amount of deadly force certainly is more than I've experienced throughout my career, during the last two weeks."

Interim Chief Sullivan said in five of the officer-involved shootings from Jan. 3 to Mar. 8, guns were pulled on officers by people who shouldn't have even had them. He said it is a situation that has gotten much worse in recent years.

"I wish I can put a finger on exactly what it is. I think it's a combination of addiction, mental health challenges, and availability of firearms," said Interim Chief Sullivan.

Interim Chief Sullivan, however, is defending his officers.

"You have so many critics watching every single thing you do, so what do you say to somebody who says ‘It think Phoenix PD is trigger-happy. They may be racist, discriminatory, and they don’t police very well.' How do you respond to those sorts of things?" Interim Chief Sullivan was asked.

"This is an incredible police department," Interim Chief Sullivan replied. "We have thousands of interactions everyday that end up with good outcomes. Good outcomes for officers, good outcomes for the citizens that we are engaged with."

What about the police union? What are they saying?

Officials with the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association (PLEA) issued a statement that reads:

"As members of the Phoenix community, our officers are passionate about the safety and well-being of Phoenix residents. Unfortunately, our officers encounter dangerous and potentially deadly situations that put our community and our officers at risk. This is the sad reality as violent crime continues to increase within our community.

This year, we’ve had 9 officer involved shootings. It is important to remember that each of these situations has their own unique circumstances and facts.

Of those mentioned, 6 suspects pulled handguns on officers and were met with a lethal response. In other situations the suspects had other deadly weapons and were advancing towards officers. Less lethal options were utilized but were unsuccessful in gaining compliance, leaving the officer with no other options to defend themselves from this imminent violent attack. This includes one suspect who had just stabbed one family member and was brutally murdering his wife when the officer arrived.

The incident [on Mar. 8] involved someone who called the police to turn himself in for a felony offense and attacked the officer when he arrived. The officer tried to create some distance and the suspect continued to fight with him and was tased. The taser had minimal effect, was kicked out of officer’s hand by the suspect who then began reaching toward his waist band, acting as if he had a concealed weapon on his person. Fearing for his life, the officer had no other choice but to end the attack using deadly force.

The common theme in most of these situations is our officers were responding to a call and subsequently attacked. Our officers never want to use deadly force but in these scenarios it is challenging to see any other option when the suspects are actively attempting to harm or kill the responding officer.

Our officers have the right to return home to their families in the same condition that they reported for duty. The community must demand that the violence being used against our officers ends immediately."

How many police shootings were there in Phoenix, in total, for 2022?

According to data provided by the City of Phoenix, there were 24 shootings involving Phoenix Police officers in 2022, marking an increase of 11 from 2021.

This story will be updated throughout 2023, if and when a shooting involving a Phoenix Police officer takes place.