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City of Phoenix announces 3 updates to police department policy

PHOENIX — The city of Phoenix on Monday announced three updates to its police department’s policies concerning body cameras, mental health training and data recording.

Mayor Kate Gallego said at a press conference that all officers on patrol are now equipped with body cameras, putting the city ahead of schedule in its camera rollout.

More than 1,700 cameras have been issued so far, she said, and they will now be given to other officers, including SWAT teams and and transit officers.

The police department will also now extend its eight-hour mental health crisis intervention training program to all officers, not just recruits.

Gallego said 194 new recruits have completed the training so far, and all patrol officers will complete it within the next two years.

Erica Chestnut-Ramirez, director of crisis and trauma healing services at La Frontera, helped develop the training.

“It’s extremely important for law enforcement to have a basic training to help them identify whether it’s a mental health or a substance use issue so that they can get the person to the services that they need rather than just incarcerating them,” she said.

Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams said the training will help officers “put empathy first” when responding to calls.

In addition, as of Aug. 5, officers must now track every time a weapon is pointed at a person.

Wiliams said the new data collection will give the department “a real idea of how many times our officers are able to successfully de-escalate an incident and a situation with the potential of deadly force.”

Carole Coles Henry, the former co-chair of the city’s Community and Police Trust Initiative, said police can use the data to identify trends.

“Take a look at the demographics of the subject, the demographics of the officer, but more importantly, take a look at if a gun was utilized, whether or not there was an opportunity for de-escalation and/or an opportunity for using some other tactic,” she said.

All three policy updates stemmed from recommendations made by the National Police Foundation in a report meant to strengthen the relationship between police and the community.

The city commissioned the report after it recorded a record high number of officer-involved shootings in 2018.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Peter Samore contributed to this report. 

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