West Valley law enforcement forming multiagency task force to investigate police shootings

A unanimous vote by the Buckeye City Council passed an intergovernmental agreement (IGA) to create an investigation team that looks into officer-involved shootings, hoping to create transparency and trust within the community.

Buckeye Police Chief Larry Hall says this agreement, which includes 9 agencies, has been in the works for at least 18 months.

"It's going to be almost on a rotational basis. We have nine different agencies. As long as the lead investigator is not from the agency where the shooting occurred, that is pretty much the whole pretense of having the IGA together," Hall said.

The goal of the intergovernmental agreement is to ensure that agencies are not investigating their own cases when police are involved in critical incidents, which includes officer-involved shootings, injuries and in-custody deaths.

Nine West Valley police departments plan to join, including Buckeye, Glendale, Peoria, Goodyear, Avondale, Tolleson, El Mirage and Surprise.

Just last month, state lawmakers proposed a bill that would have third-party agencies investigate officer-involved shootings. Hall says the agreement satisfies the overall goal of HB 2765, which was never voted on by lawmakers.

"This bill came about recently in this legislative session in January, but it is something we have been speaking about in the West Valley for a long time and our chiefs recognize that we have limited resources when we do have these types of incidents. We sometimes put a burden on larger agencies when we ask them to investigate and we're trying to help the larger agencies when we're not a burden to them," Hall said.

Hall says there are benefits to the agreement, including, reducing the perception of bias, information measures and employee development.

He says it will hopefully build trust within the community.

The task force will provide a pool of specialized officers who are available to assist in the investigation, documentation, evidence gathering and other related functions in those incidents.

The departments involved hope the team will help alleviate any perceptions of impropriety and allow for an impartial investigation.

The departments all need the approval of their city or town councils in order to officially join.

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