PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - The Phoenix City Council voted Wednesday to approve a new civilian oversight office for police. Employees with the Office of Accountability and Transparency will review use of force investigations and have a say on police training, discipline and hiring. The vote was close, passing 5-4.
Citizens sit on a board for Phoenix Police Department to look at use of force and disciplinary reviews. This new office would create paid positions with the city.
"This board is a national best practice that will help us really look at the research and modernize our department," said Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego. "Dialogue is important. That's how communities improve. Research is important, and having an independent view will make us a stronger city."
Phoenix City Councilman Sal DiCiccio voted against the office.
"It sounds great, and if it was a true accountability office, I would support it, but it's not," said DiCiccio. "It's literally designed to attack the police, part of the defund the police movement. It allows these individuals, these anti-police groups to infiltrate these groups. The way it's designed, there's going to be an amendment that says that they are able to investigate, these civilians."
During public comment, people in the community shared their thoughts on the office. Katie Baeza said her brother was killed by a Phoenix officer, and she would like to see more transparency. "I would still like to know, were both officers investigated?" said Baeza in the meeting. "Was a detective who lied to my mother the morning my brother was killed investigated? I have no idea because the police department has not been transparent."
Another speaker, Justin McKay, had concerns about the office banning former officers or family members of officers. "I oppose this measure," said McKay during public comment. "The idea for the oversight office is too underdeveloped, and it lacks standards who can serve in the office. The main standard is one can't be law enforcement or have family that was law enforcement."
The office will include a director, legal experts and community outreach workers who will review cases and offer recommendations. The budget for this new office is nearly $4 million, and the money comes from the newly approved city budget.
The Phoenix Law Enforcement Association President Britt London sent a statement saying, "We are extremely disappointed that the Phoenix City Council chose to ignore the concerns of local law enforcement and establish a new political entity that will continue the divisive narrative against our men and women in uniform. Our existing mechanisms provide civilian oversight with the opportunity to question officers in Discipline Review Boards and Use of Force Boards. Let me be abundantly clear: we support transparency and accountability, and we've worked diligently with community leaders on real solutions. Yet, this effort to create the Office of Accountability and Transparency is led by activist organizations that seek to eliminate our police department and implement their own progressive agenda."
Phoenix Vice Mayor Carlos Garcia said in a statement, "The testimonies we heard today from families impacted by police violence is (sic) exactly why we need this office. I am grateful for the community members who have long advocated for this change at the city. I am also thankful to the mayor and Councilwomen Ansari, Guardado and Pastor for voting for this. The work continues and I hope you will continue to engage our office and the city in the implementation of this office."
BREAKING: Disgraceful OAT Vote— Sal DiCiccio (@Sal_DiCiccio) May 20, 2021
“What Phoenix did today, was approve the most radical, extremist, and anti-police plan in the entire country. Today’s vote was not about acting for accountability or transparency, but handing over unlimited power to hate groups. pic.twitter.com/SikqW72YAh