PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- After a lengthy debate, the Phoenix City Council approved a plan on Tuesday for a civilian review board to oversee the Phoenix Police Department.
The Council, in a tight 5-4 vote, went with a plan that gives civilian members more influence over investigations.
The discussion started more than a year ago, after the Phoenix Police Department saw a record number of officer-involved shootings in 2018. The aim of the review board is to increase transparency.
Last year, the National Police Foundation, an independent, nonprofit, non-partisan group reviewed the Phoenix Police Department's number of officer-involved shootings after gaining approval by the City Council. The study suggested improving transparency and interaction with the public.
City leaders came up with two different options for the review board.
The first option would create a civilian ombudsman position. This official would be hired by the City Manager and would mediate complaints and monitor police investigations on use-of-force incidents. They would also release an annual report of audit findings, including recommendations by police, investigations and training.
The second would create two new independent bodies, one with city staff, called the Office of Accountability and Transparency and another made up of appointed community members called the Community Review Board. The two would work together to gather input from the community and release independent reports on police policy, investigations and training.
Both models have a civilian review board, the only difference between the two models is the power of the civilian review board. The meeting started Tuesday afternoon and the Phoenix City Council has been hearing testimony for hours. In the end, the council went with Model B, with civilians being actively involved in the investigations. However, disciplinary decisions will still be up to the police chief.
"The important thing is going to be implementation and making sure that we get this done right," said Council member Carlos Garcia who drafted Model B. "That due process is protected and also that the community has input."
Britt London, President of the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association representing officers, opposed both Model A and Model B. After the vote, London told Arizona's Family he wants to make sure officer rights are respected.
"If there are these people that are going to be professional investigators, what have you, it shouldn't be a problem," said London. "But you know, we'll see."
Now City staff has to work on putting together bylaws, a budget and staff descriptions during the next few months, where it will then be brought back for one more vote.
On Wednesday, the Phoenix Law Enforcement Associated (PLEA) released a statement from Michael "Britt" London, the president of the PLEA Board of Trustees, regarding the vote.
"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," said London. "Our existing process works, providing civilians with the opportunity to question officers in Discipline 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. Our organization will continue to monitor and provide input during the development of the Community Review Board and the Office of Accountability and Transparency. We will also assess our legal and regulatory options moving forward."