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Phoenix police union ready to welcome new department chief Jeri Williams

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PHOENIX — The Phoenix Law Enforcement Association said it was comfortable with the city’s choice of police chief, Jeri Williams.

Williams, the first female police chief in city history, is a known quantity within the department. She was an assistant chief when she left in 2011.

“She’s competent and qualified enough to go out and get a job – as a chief – of an agency in another state,” Ken Crane, president of PLEA, said.

“And for the last five years she’s done well with them.”

Williams, a 28-year veteran, been the police chief in Oxnard, California, since 2011. Crane said that was a big point in her favor.

During her first stint in Phoenix, Williams led the department’s southern division and oversaw about 1,000 sworn and civilian personnel.

There are some problems Williams will face in Phoenix.

One is lower morale related to less manpower.

“When you show up to work and you’re supposed to have eight people on a squad – and you have four,” Crane said, “it becomes unsafe for the officers who are working, because it’s going to take longer for [an officer] to make my backup.”

Williams, a native of Phoenix, will take over in October. That’s when Chief Joseph Yahner retires.

Williams was one of three finalists for the job. The other candidates, Assistant Phoenix Police Chief Mike Kurtenbach and Assistant Washington, D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham, each have 26 years of experience in law enforcement.

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