Phoenix police officers will now be required to document every incident in which they point a gun at someone, city officials announced Monday.
The new rule, which comes after months of public outcry over the Phoenix Police Department’s aggressive tactics, requires officers to fill out a form that will be reviewed by a supervisor every time an officer points a gun.
“We took the bull by the horns and we really jumped all in with our community to show our transparency, to show our accountability — to show the fact that we are a part of the community,” Police Chief Jeri Williams said during a Monday news conference announcing the changes.
“This will allow us to have a real idea of how many times our officers are able to successfully de-escalate a situation with the potential of deadly force.”
The city introduced the rule at the recommendation of the National Police Foundation, which the city commissioned to study the department’s tactics after leading the nation in officer-involved shootings in 2018. The foundation noted that the rule is not unique, pointing to cities like Dallas, Baltimore, Cleveland, New Orleans and Chicago that have similar policies.
Shootings lead Phoenix police to gun pointing rule
While police shootings in the city were down 70 percent through the first half of 2019, police in Phoenix have been unable to shake controversy over their use of force. In May, a viral video showed Phoenix police officers pointing a gun at a black family during a shoplifting investigation outside a local dollar store.
The family is suing the city for $10 million, claiming the police overreacted to their 4-year-old daughter stealing a doll from the store. Police say that the family was being uncooperative during the encounter and that more items than just the doll were found in their vehicle. The incident is still under investigation.
The department has faced accusations of racism following the incident. A June analysis of Facebook posts by officers nationwide found that 75 current Phoenix police officers and 22 retired officers posted racist or inflammatory comments on the social media site. The revelations caused Williams to pull some officers off enforcement assignments while others are under internal investigation.
At a June community event hosted by Phoenix officials, thousands of residents share their fears and frustrations with the conduct of the department.
Body cameras and mental-health training
In addition to the new gun pointing rules, Phoenix officials announced other measures aimed at helping to rebuild trust between police officers and the local community.
Until now, Phoenix was the largest city in the country without body cameras for most of its patrol officers. But officials said Monday they have ordered 1,700 new cameras and are outfitting officers with the devices ahead of schedule.
Officials also announced that Phoenix police will partner with the mental-health treatment center La Frontera Arizona to provide all officers with “mental health first aid” training.
Previously, officers were only required to take basic crisis-intervention training during the police academy. While an additional 40-hour crisis course was available to officers, only 20 percent of them had taken advantage of the more in-depth training. Now, all officers will be required to take the new course.
“We’ve learned that both our community and police officers agree that this change is needed and necessary,” Williams said.
The controversy in Phoenix comes amid nationwide outcry in recent years over abuse of police power, with much of the focus centered around alleged law enforcement discrimination in black communities.
In recent years, various groups and figures have emerged to protest alleged systemic abuses of police power. Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick ignited a fierce debate in 2016 when he took a knee during the national anthem at NFL games to shine a spotlight on police brutality.
Black Lives Matter, one of the most prominent activist social movements, takes its slogan from the premise that there is an epidemic of racially motivated unlawful police killings of black men – a claim that is not necessarily supported by data.