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Former Phoenix police officer sees ‘dangerous’ effect of civilian oversight

(AP Photo)

PHOENIX – A former law enforcement officer said Wednesday that civilian oversight of Phoenix police was potentially dangerous and could create even more conflict in the community.

“If it’s implemented where you have folks that are simply antipolice who are sitting on these boards and doing these investigations, I think you’re going to have absolute chaos and every move a police officer makes will be even more politicized,” Joe Clure, executive director of the Arizona Police Association, told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s The Mike Broomhead Show.

“It would get real dangerous for law enforcement when you have civilians who do not understand the dynamcis of force situations, be they deadly force or otherwise,” Clure said.

Tuesday, the City Council approved a proposal to staff a Community Review Board and an Office of Accountability and Transparency.

Chief Jeri Williams said in a statement, “As chief, I am committed to devoting the resources of our department to work collaboratively with this new office.”

The Phoenix Law Enforcement Association expressed concerns about the plan.

“We are extremely disappointed the Phoenix City Council chose to ignore the concerns of local law enforcement and establish new oversight entities that will continue the divisive narrative against our men and women in uniform,” Michael “Britt” London, president of the PLEA Board of Trustees, said in a statement.

“Our existing process works, providing civilians with the opportunity to question officers in Disciplinary Review Boards and Use of Force Boards. We wish the council would have taken the opportunity to inform concerned constituents about the transparent process that already exists.”

The oversight would be a mix of review, audit and investigation and would operate independent of the department.

“What kind of training are these folks going to have that are going to sit in these investigations?” Clure said.

The department came under heavy criticism in 2018 for a record 44 officer-involved shootings.

“There was lots of concerns about that, as there should be,” Clure said. “What people want to gloss over is the fact that every one of them I believe were justified under the law and were reactionary on the part of the police officer as a result of the hostile actions of the individuals involved.”

A lengthy report released by the nonprofit National Police Foundation in 2019 concluded there were no major issues with department training or policies. But the study did recommend several areas for improvement, including better transparency with the community.

Last year, Phoenix officer-involved shootings fell to 15, according to statistics compiled by KTAR News.

Clure said the council’s action “further reinforces the fact that … there is little police support.

“That weighs on your determinations on how you police and whether or not you even want to police.”

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