Phoenix, AZ – Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego cast the deciding vote to implement a citizens review board in what has been called “the most radical, extremist anti-police plan” in the country.
“I think we could have adopted a policy that would have helped us better unite the city, but it was important that we move forward,” Gallego said of the decision to establish the police oversight board, according to KNXV.
The proposal for the implementation of the Office of Accountability and Transparency was the brainchild of Phoenix City Councilman Carlos Garcia.
The 5-to-4 City Council vote came after five hours of debate, during which dozens of primarily African American and Hispanic community members demanded more monitoring of Phoenix police, the Associated Press reported.
“I wanted to see civilian oversight in the City of Phoenix,” Gallego told KNXV on Wednesday. “It is part of an overall package to modernize our police department that I’ve been working on this year.”
The mayor said that officers will also be mandated to wear bodycams and to undergo additional mental health training.
The city now must create two independent entities – the Community Review Board and the Office of Accountability and Transparency staffed by city employees, the Associated Press reported.
Working together, the newly-formed entities will be tasked with generating their own reports on police investigations, training, and policy.
Gallego had been pushing for her own proposal, which did not give citizens the power to investigate the police force, but jumped on board with the more restrictive plan at the last minute, the Associated Press reported.
“This is the most radical, extremist anti-police plan in the whole damn country,” said City Councilman Sal DiCiccio, who voted against the proposal. “It is going to destroy the morale of our police department and put our public in danger.”
Councilman Jim Waring, who also voted against the proposal, argued that law enforcement officers’ jobs are hard enough at it is.
“To the officers, I know you got an extremely tough job. I, personally, don’t want to add to your burdens, which I think this will today,” Waring said, according to KNXV.
Phoenix Law Enforcement Association (PLEA) Board of Trustees President Michael “Britt” London said that establishing the oversight entities shoved law enforcement officers’ concerns to the side.
“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,” London told KPNX.
“Our existing process works, providing civilians with the opportunity to question officers in Discipline Review Boards and Use of Force Boards,” he continued. “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,” the union president said. “We will also assess our legal and regulatory options moving forward.”
Phoenix Police Sergeant and Lieutenants Association President Ben Leuschner said that the citizens who will be tasked with investigating the police force aren’t even trained or experienced in police work.
“This plan is actually designed to create conflicts between the department’s investigations and a parallel investigation conducted by investigators that will not have the experience and training the members of the department have,” Leuschner told KNXV.
Gallego said that the police unions are “important stakeholders,” and that she wants to “balance and understand their needs.”
“There is so much happening, but I’m proud of the work we’re doing. I’m proud of the City of Phoenix,” the mayor quipped.
Meanwhile, Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams said that her department is committed to working collaboratively with the oversight board and the new accountability and transparency office, KNXV reported.
Chief Williams will ultimately have final say with regards to potential discipline issues involving Phoenix police officers, KPNX reported.
Garcia has called for the city to dump $1.8 million into the new office’s annual budget, and requested that 12 employees be hired to carry out its duties.