Police Chief Jeri Williams Outlines Changes Made to Enhance Public Trust

Phoenix, AZ (STL.News) The Phoenix Police Department released a list of enhancements made during the 2019-2020 fiscal year, designed to build trust and transparency with the community.

Chief Jeri Williams documented the changes in a memo to City Manager Ed Zuercher and Assistant City Manager Milton Dohoney.

The Department has nearly 900,000 annual interactions with the public.  With a fast-tracked roll out of more than 2,000 body-worn cameras, most of these interactions are now captured on camera, providing greater transparency and accountability.

Last fall, the department released its first Critical Incident Briefing videos, designed to provide greater transparency of officer-involved shooting.  These videos are released publicly on the department’s social media pages, providing factual information, body-worn camera footage and 911 calls for all officer-involved shootings.

“Studies prove tracking certain data can help reduce the number of officer-involved shooting,” Williams wrote in her memo.  She says that is why the department is now requiring officers to document every time they point their guns at people (PGP).  “We are analyzing this data to evaluate trends and provide further training,” said Williams.  A daily internal report is made, and a public facing data dashboard is in development.

When a traumatic event like an officer involved shooting or serious violent crime impacts a community, a new team from the department responds providing support for victims such as food and housing as well as emotional support for other neighbors and friends who may be impacted by the crime.

The police academy is modernizing training to prepare officers for the challenges and rewards of 21st century policing.  The more contemporary training model emphasizes communication skills, empathy, and stress management.  “We are confident this will give officers the tools to make well thought-out decisions in highly charged situations,” Williams wrote.

The department is taking steps to improve mental health services.  Internally, the department’s Employee Assistance Unit used a three-pronged approach to strengthen officer well-being.  This includes peer, professional, and spiritual support.  Externally, 9-1-1 dispatchers are trained to identify when people need mental help, not police help, and divert calls to the appropriate behavioral health services.  About 20 percent of the department’s officers have also opted for voluntary training to be part of the crisis intervention team, responding to mental health calls in the field.

Chief Williams also announced on June 9 a policy change related to the Carotid Control Technique.  Effective immediately, the tactic will no longer be used or taught in police training.

“We can’t function as a department without the trust of our community and there are adjustments we can make to strengthen that trust,” said Chief Jeri Williams.  “We pride ourselves on being an organization willing to learn and evolve, to listen to our community and become better. I am confident this moves us closer to that goal.”

Many of the changes made in the last year were outlined in Chief William’s Five Point Plan, presented to the Phoenix City Council in July of 2019.  Others resulted from recommendations in the 2019 National Police Foundation study as well as best practices from police departments across the country.

“Phoenix is a fast-growing city, attracting people who want to live, work and play in a safe environment,” Williams wrote to City Manager Zuercher.  “With the appropriate resources, I am confident our organization can support the safety and security of all residents and visitors.”