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Get to know Phoenix’s first female police chief, Jeri Williams

Former Oxnard Police Chief Jeri Williams (Oxnard Police Department Facebook)

PHOENIX — With the hire of Jeri Williams as the city of Phoenix’s newest chief of police came curiosity as to who she is and her history.

After all, she’s going to be running the largest police department in the area and many of decisions will affect you or someone you know.

To help you get to know the chief a little better, we put together the following:

Who is she?

Williams will be the first female to lead the city’s police force and will take over for current Chief Joe Yahner in October, when the latter retires.

She was one of three candidates for the job. The other two, Assistant Phoenix Police Chief Mike Kurtenbach and Assistant Washington, D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham, each had two years fewer experience than Williams.

Williams came up through the Phoenix Police Department and, at one point, was in charge of the department’s southern division and oversaw about 1,000 sworn and civilian personnel.

She left Phoenix in 2011 to take over as the top cop in Oxnard, California.

Family life

Williams is married to Judge Cody Williams, a justice of the peace in south Phoenix, for 24 years. The couple had two college-aged sons, Alan and Cody.

Alan, the eldest, was picked up by the Phoenix Suns as an unsigned free agent and is currently plying his trade with the squad in the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas.


Williams has attended two of Arizona’s three state public universities.

She received her bachelor’s degree in fine arts from Arizona State University in 1998.

After ASU, Williams attended Northern Arizona University. She earned received her master’s degree in educational leadership in 1999 and is currently studying to get her doctoral degree in the same subject.

Where she stands on issues facing law enforcement

It’s no stretch to say that relations between police and the public in America are strained. While we will find out more about exactly where Williams stands on certain topics as we move closer to her October start date, she did speak about a few things in the buildup to her hire.

Police roll in the community

“I will listen to your concerns. I will be your representative. I will represent you. I will represent us because I think that’s what law enforcement is supposed to do.”

“We will continue to increase trust and continue our tradition of both protecting and serving our community.”

De-escalation training

“De-escalation training is already at the Phoenix Police Department. After realizing and understanding and implementing some of the president’s 21st century policing plan philosophies, all departments have had to look at what we do, and how we manage and how we enforce.

“But it’s more than just the de-escalation of force. What it is building relationships and connections with the community. Because if the community trusts you to be just and fair, you will be less likely to more force than you would have.”

Black Lives Matter

“The Black Lives Matter movement was spawned by a rash of men of color, and sometimes women of color, being killed by the hands of law enforcement. So it is a cry out, it is a see and listen to me and help me understand why this is happening. So I am obviously an advocate of Black Lives Matter from that respect, because that’s the community coalescing and involving.

“But frankly I’m all about all lives matter.

“Wouldn’t it be a great world that if and when we respond to calls for service, and you call your Phoenix Police Department and every single time we come out we do right by you?

So the Black Lives Matter movement is a call and a cry out for us as a community, we as law enforcement to really recognize and know the importance of community connections, police legitimacy and trust and just bear respect for human life.”

KTAR’s Corbin Carson contributed to this report.

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