Phoenix Police Chief Williams doesn’t want probe to be distraction to officers
PHOENIX — Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams doesn’t want the U.S. Department of Justice investigation over potential civil rights violations and abuses of power to serve as a distraction for officers.
Williams said Thursday during a press conference the investigation led by the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division could take over a year.
“I tell them to continue to do the amazing work they do day in, day out…continue doing what they do and we will work through this process together,” Williams said.
City Manager Ed Zuercher said the investigation will be embraced in hopes that it results in a stronger police force.
Federal investigators will review the police department’s use-of-force practices during the investigation. They will also look for patterns of retaliation over activity protected under the First Amendment and discrimination against people with disabilities or who are homeless.
“I know that good officers don’t want to work in a system that allows bad practices and our community expects and deserves a high-quality police department with officers committed to justice, fairness and respect,” Zuercher said.
“We will continue to hold that as a standard that we measure of police department, police chief and police officers against.”
City Councilwoman Ann O’Brien is concerned the investigation will affect officer morale.
The DOJ reviewed media reports, court files and citizen complaints before deciding to move forward with the Phoenix probe.
“The city is already facing a shortage in our sworn officers and many are contemplating retirement as soon as it becomes available,” O’Brien said. “I shudder to think what this ‘investigation’ will do to the morale of our officers.”
Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke didn’t get into details about specific allegations, but she said during an earlier press conference that investigators will review, among other things, whether police have been seizing or throwing away personal property during sweeps of homeless encampments.
She said that if civil rights violations are confirmed, the DOJ will work with the city on implementing remedies or, if necessary, take legal action to enforce the changes.
“We’re looking forward to see what we’re doing right and we’re looking forward to seeing what we can improve on,” Williams said. “Public trust is essential for effective policing, and accountability is a big component of that trust.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.