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Chief responds to NYT article on Phoenix police shootings

(Facebook Photo/Jeri Williams)

PHOENIX — Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams responded to a New York Times article published Monday that said the department blamed civilians for officer-involved shootings.

Williams said in a statement Tuesday that the article‘s headline, “How Phoenix Explains a Rise in Police Violence: It’s the Civilians’ Fault,” misrepresents her previous statements.

“First, the headline implies that we have already made up our minds as to an explanation for the rise in violent encounters,” she said.

“We cannot explain the rise, which is exactly why we have turned to experts and scholars to help us get an understanding of the sociological component to these incidents.”

The experts and scholars she referred to are the National Police Foundation and Arizona State University, which are currently studying the department’s officer-involved shootings.

The study is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

The New York Times said in the article that it requested reports on the department’s officer-involved shootings and disciplinary actions almost four months ago, but it hasn’t received anything.

So far in this year in Phoenix there have been 41 officer-involved shootings. Last year there were 21.

This year’s 21st shooting happened in May, Williams said, which let the department know that the number would be abnormally high this year.

Williams said of this year’s 41 shootings, police engaged 35 people armed with guns, four armed with knives and one armed with a “dangerous instrument.”

“(The article) misrepresents that we are blaming civilians. What we know, as fact, time and again during these encounters, violent individuals are victimizing members of our community and attacking officers with guns, knives, and other weapons,” she said.

The department is working to strengthen its relationship with the community, Williams said, especially because some people are losing trust in law enforcement.

She also said the department is committed to using the latest versions of body cameras and providing officers with “cultural competency” and mental health training.

“Less lethal options and de-escalation practices, wherever possible, are always preferable,” she said.

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