Phoenix police chief defends officers' actions at protest

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Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams not only defended the actions her officers took Tuesday night to disperse the crowds after President Donald Trump’s rally in downtown Phoenix, she praised them. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams not only defended the actions her officers took Tuesday night to disperse the crowds after President Donald Trump’s rally in downtown Phoenix, she praised them. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) is calling for "a full and transparent investigation" after officers used tear gas, smoke, pepper balls and pepper spray to disperse a crowd that remained near Phoenix Convention Center after the rally ended. (Source: 3TV/CBS5) Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) is calling for "a full and transparent investigation" after officers used tear gas, smoke, pepper balls and pepper spray to disperse a crowd that remained near Phoenix Convention Center after the rally ended. (Source: 3TV/CBS5)
Protest organizers worked hard to maintain peace and order. Arizona activists say police acted aggressively and violently during the mostly peaceful protest on Tuesday. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Protest organizers worked hard to maintain peace and order. Arizona activists say police acted aggressively and violently during the mostly peaceful protest on Tuesday. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -

Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams not only defended the actions her officers took Tuesday night to disperse the crowds after President Donald Trump’s rally in downtown Phoenix, she praised them.

“No one who was there last night wanted the end result to be. But I will say this once again, professional, decisive, immediately responsive and our police department had to deal with and engage with a scenario and situation and they did it with exception. They were amazing,” said Williams Wednesday afternoon.

[RELATED: Activists: Police were aggressive, violent after Trump rally]

The department is coming under harsh criticism from several fronts.

Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) is calling for "a full and transparent investigation" after officers used tear gas, smoke, pepper balls and pepper spray to disperse a crowd that remained near the Phoenix Convention Center after the rally ended.

Williams said her officer did not take action until a very few in the crowd first threw water bottles, rocks, incendiary devices and gas canisters at police.

[RELATED: Phoenix PD release more details on protests, arrests outside Trump's rally in Phoenix]

“Our officers are forming a squirmish line, they have helmets, they have their shields, they're ready to have people see this officer presence and make a conscious choice not to commit criminal acts. Yet, they did. As the ped fencing is coming down, gas is thrown at my guys or at our officers and then we retuned with gas, smoke, pepper balls to immediately try to disperse the crowd,” said Williams.

Protest organizers worked hard to maintain peace and order. Arizona activists say police acted aggressively and violently during the mostly peaceful protest on Tuesday.

[RAW VIDEO: Police, mayor talk about post-rally violence]

The immigrant and civil rights groups said during a news conference on Wednesday that they've filed a complaint and are seeking answers as to why police acted with such force.

Antonio Bustamante, a local attorney who observed the protests yesterday, said a small group of men threw water bottles at officers. He said police then fired tear gas. Bustamante denied that anyone in the crowd threw gas canisters at police.

The groups say they plan on speaking out against police actions at the next city council meeting.

[RELATED: 4 arrested, 2 officers suffer heat exhaustion after protest turns unruly outside Trump rally]

Williams said she understands people are angry but believes their anger should not be directed at the police department.

“The anger should be directed to those people, the very small number of people in that crowd, who made the conscious choice to throw rocks, bottles and gas at officers which then forced our reaction in order to try and maintain and keep a peaceful environment,” said Williams

A prosecutor isn't waiting for a Phoenix Police Department review to be completed to pronounce that police officers acted appropriately in dispersing protesters after President Donald Trump's Tuesday evening rally.

[SLIDESHOW: Police, Trump protesters clash in downtown Phoenix]

Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery has already chimed in with his opinion that officers acted appropriately.

In a statement released by his office Wednesday, he said officers "swiftly and decisively dealt with small fractions of individuals who attempted isolated actions of violence" while protecting public safety and free speech for law-abiding individuals.

Williams intends a complete review and assessment of the incident. She said she wants to take all the information, really digest it to see what the department did well and where there is room for improvement.

The ACLU has also come forward with criticism of Phoenix police. The organization is demanding an independent investigation. Executive Director Alessandra Soler said police failed to protect protesters' First Amendment rights.

One of the biggest complaints against the department has been that no verbal warning was given before dispensing gas, smoke and other items used to disperse crowds.

Williams said it’s possible not everyone heard the commands but they were given by officers in the crowd as well as the air unit overhead through their intercom system.

“I don't think our level of force was overdone. I think it was calculated. I don’t think we were abusive. I think we did everything clearly, methodically and I think we did a great job in that tense situation,” said Williams. 

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