PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - The Phoenix Police Department announced Monday morning the agency is now tracking when officers pull their weapons, sparking concerns about balancing transparency with officer safety.
Some law enforcement experts believe the new type of use-of-force tracking may cause some officers to hesitate in life-threatening situations.
“If you have an officer take that reflective moment, that pause, it’s going to reduce your numbers, but the other edge of that sword is at what cost?” questions Jeff Hynes, a justice studies professor with Glendale Community College and retired Phoenix Police commander.
Hynes says police leaders must not only be transparent with the community but with their officers as well letting them know why the data is being tracked and what it reveals. Hynes says officers may be uncomfortable with the idea of facing extra scrutiny for decisions made in the field.
“If I pull my gun, the administration is going to look at it. The public is going to look at it, and that split second, that pause could mean the difference between somebody being injured or killed or a fellow partner being injured or killed,” says Hynes.
Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams expects the data to help the agency understand when and how officers successfully avoid firing their weapons in tense situations.
“I’m hopeful that we’re able to articulate and document the number of times where we did, by policy, were able to point a gun at someone. But at the same time, deescalate that and didn’t use that type of lethal force,” says Williams.
At least one other Valley agency is already tracking when officers pull their weapons. Scottsdale Police have been tracking the data since 2016.
"We feel the inclusion of this this use of force data is consistent with our ongoing efforts to be fully transparent with the community we serve," said Ofc. Kevin Watts with Scottsdale Police.
Some law enforcement experts believe the tracking data can be used to help improve officer training and understanding how officers perceive threats.