PHOENIX — Police Chief Jeri Williams said she thought her officers did an outstanding job handling a large protest after President Donald Trump’s rally in Phoenix.
“I absolutely give my folks an A+,” Williams told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Bruce St. James and Pamela Hughes on Wednesday.
“I’m so proud to be the police chief of men and women who literally showed that professionalism — under contentious scenarios and situations — they demonstrated it flawlessly.”
The chief credited the department’s preparation to deal with the large crowds as the reason things did not get too out of hand.
“I literally went and spoke to the officers who were going to be on the skirmish lines and shared with them my expectation: Be professional. The world is watching.”
The protests were mainly peaceful until the rally ended about 8:30 p.m. Over the next two hours, police used tear gas, pepper spray and smoke bombs to disperse large crowds, primarily in the area along Third Street between Van Buren and Monroe streets.
Four people were arrested.
Williams said her officers conducted themselves in a calculated manner and did not charge into protester groups, instead allowing them a chance to obey orders.
“They gave people opportunities to comply,” she said, adding that nonuniformed officers had moved through the crowd telling people what they were and were not allowed to do.
Despite being pleased with her officers, Williams said she ordered a full review of the event.
“We can always learn of what worked really well and then we can always learn what we could have tweaked or done a little bit differently,” she said.
The review was expected to take several weeks.
Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Arizona’s Morning News that the Phoenix Police Department led by example on Tuesday.
“You could not have asked for more under those dynamics,” he said. “Kudos to them.”
Trouble for Williams’s officers started when a fight broke out in the crowd of protesters. When officers urged the fighting to stop, someone threw an object.
“The crowd, or someone in the crowd, were throwing either gas at us or lighted devices at police who were forming a skirmish line,” she said.
The chief said her officers were planning to be out for hours monitoring a peaceful protest, but the plan changed when things began tilting toward violence.
“When people make the decision, the conscious choice, to throw rocks and/or bottles at law enforcement … we have to respond to the actions given to us,” she said.