Phoenix Council votes 5-4 for civilian oversight of police

Phoenix Council votes 5-4 for civilian oversight of police
FILE - This July 8, 2016 file photo shows the shadow of a protester with a bullhorn in front of Phoenix Police Department headquarters as hundreds of marchers take to the streets to protest against fatal shootings of black men by police, in Phoenix. Phoenix City Council members Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020, voted 5-4 to approve a citizen review board with the power to investigate police after a raucous meeting that stretched five hours into the evening. The council has been examining different proposals for policing the police after a record number of officer shootings in past years and the uproar over a videotaped encounter last summer between officers and a black family whose young daughter took a doll from a dollar store. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)

PHOENIX (AP) — Phoenix City Council members Tuesday voted 5-4 to approve a citizen review board with the power to investigate police after a raucous meeting that stretched five hours into the evening.

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.

Dozens of mostly Hispanic and African American community members spoke at Tuesday’s meeting for a citizen review board with investigative powers.

That option will create 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.

Viridiana Hernandez, of the nonprofit neighborhood group Poder in Action, told council members before the vote that anything less would be “false accountability.”

The Rev. Warren H. Stewart Sr. of the First Institutional Baptist Church, an African American house of worship that hosted early meetings studying oversight possibilities, said he supported a citizen review board with investigative powers.

“We respect and support our police,” said Stewart, adding the department, like the community, cannot police itself and needs oversight.

After listening to more than 40 speakers during what she said was a “very difficult” meeting, Mayor Kate Gallego dropped her initial support for another proposed model that didn’t give civilians investigative powers.

Councilmember Sal DiCiccio was among those voting against the measure.

“This is the most radical, extremist anti-police plan in the whole damn country,” DiCiccio said. “It is going to destroy the morale of our police department and put our public in danger.”

Councilmember Jim Waring, who also voted against the proposal, said he wanted the city’s police officers to know he supported them.

A representative for the police union spoke out against any kind of civilian oversight, a longstanding position for the group.

City officials began studying different police oversight models last year after community tensions spilled over when the video came to light, showing an officer pointing guns and cursing at a black family. The officer was fired after an internal review.

The department has taken additional steps aimed at increasing transparency and trust in recent months, including agency-wide deployment of body cameras and a new policy to keep a record of every time an officer points a gun at a person.