PHOENIX - Police union officials are speaking out on Phoenix City Council’s decision to approve a plan for a citizen review board with the power to investigate police.
The council has been examining different proposals for policing the police, after the Phoenix department broke a national record for the number of officer shootings in 2018, and video of an encounter between officers and a black family whose young daughter took a doll from a dollar store sparked an uproar last summer.
Proposal approved during Tuesday meeting
Council members has two options to choose from during a meeting on Tuesday, and eventually chose an option that creates two new independent bodies, an office of accountability and transparency comprised of city staff and a community review board. The two bodies would work together to release their own reports on police policy, investigations and training.
The option that council members eventually chose was created by Council Member Carlos Garcia. The community review board will be filled by appointed community members. Meanwhile, the Phoenix Police Chief will have the final say.
During the meeting, Mayor Kate Gallego dropped her initial support for another proposed model that didn’t give civilians investigative powers.
“I would have preferred that the model I proposed passed, but I'm glad we're moving forward with this overall program,” said Gallego, during the meeting.
Police union officials criticize plan
Police union officials call the option the “most radical and dangerous” for the city.
"What you're asking for is a contrary response to what another investigation shows, and then it puts the chief in a very difficult position because now, as the leader of the organization, you may have political pressure that's being exerted on one end, and now, she has to make a decision," said Ben Leuschner, President of the Phoenix Police Sergeants and Lieutenants Association (PPSLA)
Leuschner says because of the decision, members of the organization are concerned, and morale is low. He says the move may have recruits going to other cities for employment, or may lead to early retirements.
“This is a slow motion effect,” said Leuschner. “It's something that where a person who may have wanted to stay longer will now make decisions where they will shorten their career."
Leuschner also says activist groups don’t represent the majority of the community.
“We're ringing a warning bell here. We're letting the public know that this is a bad and dangerous idea that has been passed by City Council, and the public that supports us, they need to be more active,” said Leuschner. “They need to make their voices heard."
Meanwhile, The Phoenix Law Enforcement Association also issued a statement on the vote by Phoenix City Council.
"We are extremely disappointed the Phoenix City Council chose to ignore the concerns of local law enforcement and establish new oversight entities that will continue the divisive narrative against our men and women in uniform. Our existing process works, providing civilians with the opportunity to question officers in Disciplinary Review Boards and Use of Force Boards. We wish the council would have taken the opportunity to inform concerned constituents about the transparent process that already exists. Our organization will continue to monitor and provide input during the development of the Community Review Board and the Office of Accountability and Transparency. We will also assess our legal and regulatory options moving forward."
Phoenix Police Chief Responds
Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams has also responded to the vote.
"Our department values the collaborative relationship with the community we serve. We know our success hinges on police and the community working cohesively together. As chief, I am committed to devoting the resources of our department to work collaboratively with this new office."
The Associated Press (AP) contributed to this report.