The Phoenix Police are Completely Out of Control. A Report from the Community Meeting.
By Dianne Post, Attorney, Central Phoenix National Lawyer’s Guild
The Phoenix mayor and police chief called a community “listening” forum on June 18 at Pilgrims Rest Baptist Church. The place was overflowing and the meeting had to start nearly an hour late to get everyone in.
While the mayor, chief, assistant chief, city manager, assistant manager, and public safety chair sat at a table, the facilitator began by insulting us.
He bragged about how Phoenix was the only city that had ever had a meeting like this (it’s not, nor is it the first time Phoenix has) and that the community can’t expect change unless we tell the officials what we want so give ideas. We have been telling them for 40 years! I have been to
several of these meetings where they allegedly “listen” and then recommendations are made and nothing changes.
One of the speakers held up a Bainbridge study that we paid $250,000 for only to see not one recommendation implemented because of the opposition of the union (PLEA).
When the family that was assaulted on May 27 entered with a large group of other victims of the Phoenix PD, the crowd stood and clapped.
Several speakers pointed out that the “apology” from the police was followed by grainy footage of alleged shoplifting to attempt to criminalize the family so that was no apology at all. No one can justify that behavior and the city had better not try.
Chief Williams spoke briefly and said we were here for trust, transparency, and accountability. As the night wore on, speaker after speaker told her that the Phoenix PD has no trust, no transparency, and no accountability. Victim after victim got up and told their story of police brutality.
One officer has murdered three Black men and is till not only on the force but patrolling in a Black area. Two men spoke of police brutality and then they were charged with crimes. Several families spoke of the police handcuffing and then beating and shooting their family member and then setting the dogs on him. Another said the police threatened to call ICE on a woman and took and broke her IPAD on which she was recording. One had to sue to get the police record. No transparency there.
Another is still protesting daily at the police station to get the police report. Officers walk by and laugh at them. No trust there.
As the night wore on, a white woman testified that she had “the talk” with her son and told him this would never happen to him. She then tore into Chief Williams for saying this was a problem but not a race issue! Are you kidding? She was the first to say out loud, “Stop lying.”
But many after her repeated the refrain – city, department, chief – STOP LYING. Lying in police reports, lying on the stand, lying in 2 press conferences, lying in these forums. Every attorney and judge and prosecutor knows that police officers lie all the time. This community knows it too.
A few speakers praised Williams for leadership, making tough decisions, and trying. They were booed down. No one was in a mood for that. Many said this meeting was just more “lip service.” We have been here before, meeting after meeting, recommendation after recommendation. Nothing changes.
Chief Williams even said it was hard to understand the behavior of Officer Christopher since he was a “good officer.”
No he’s not a good officer. Good officers don’t behave like that.
It’s the same when a man murders his wife and children and the neighbors say they are so shocked because he was a “good man.” Not he wasn’t a good man, good men don’t behave like that.
A few mentioned leaning on technology i.e. an early warning system for bad officers and body cameras officers can’t turn off. See below. I want to support Chief Williams but she seems to be unable or unwilling to truly grasp what is going on here, and she needs some real coaching in public speaking.
After much testimony, she had another chance and rather than respond appropriately she used her school teacher voice to tell us ruffians that she had rules to follow and that change does not start with the police department but the community. Wrong, wrong and wrong.
She was warned by the NPF not to blame the community, turned right around and put that first in her response to the recommendations and repeated it last night. That line is straight from PLEA. I know because I read it in a letter from them to the NAACP in 2016 telling them to teach their young boys how to behave. I suspect PLEA is bullying her but she has to stand up to them. Placating bullies only makes them stronger.
Things went down hill, if that was possible, after that with a Marine testifying with outrage at the behavior and saying police should be held to a higher standard – in fact that is the law. Another man said the city manager is his friend but who is running this city, PLEA or the chief or the manager or the elected council?
A woman also testified about the sexual assaults by officers and the failure of the department to take action.
Renewed calls were made for a citizens review board with subpoena and firing power. Many asked for mental evaluations of the officers and one pointed out that you can’t take soldiers back from
Iraq who are suffering from PTSD, put them into the police department and expect it to end well.
The nearly last speaker repeated that this is a systemic problem and the community has been addressing it for years but the city and the department has refused to listen. So don’t tell us to calm down, we are not calming down. He pointed out that this is a game they are playing on us but the game is over. No more social control. People have power and if there is no resolution we will shut this city down. Super Bowl is coming so let’s shut this city down. He was met with wild acclaim.
The last speaker was Mayor Gallego. Many people had said I worked for your election, don’t let us down. But she did. She said this was the beginning not the end and that they would be back in 30 days with their recommendations from what they heard. We have heard this over and over.
I could paper my living room with the pages of recommendations we have seen. But most telling was that while the victims were testifying, while the community was expressing its outrage, those on the panel looked down at their papers and never looked at the speakers. They never saw real people. They have no intention of changing.
Michael founded BlogForArizona as the Howard Dean campaign blog for Arizona in 2003, and has been blogging ever since. Michael is an attorney living in Tucson with his wife.