PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) – The Phoenix Police Department has tasked the FBI with conducting an independent civil rights reviews of the deadly officer-involved shooting involving James Porter Garcia. It happened on July 4 while police were following up on an assault investigation at a west Phoenix home. When police arrived, they found Garcia inside a car in the driveway of the house. Police say the man armed himself with a handgun and didn't listen to their commands. That's when shots were fired.

Police Chief Jeri Williams with Javier Soto

Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams spoke with Javier Soto Thursday, July 9.

Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams spoke with Arizona's Family Thursday about her decision to involve the FBI.

"It wasn't anything necessarily that cautioned me or raised a red flag. But at the end of the day, there are individuals in the community calling for an extra set of eyes and an independent investigation, and the FBI was the way to go," Williams told Arizona's Family Thursday morning. "This is what they do. … I think it's important for me to practice what I preach. I keep saying that I'm not afraid of an extra set of eyes. I'm not afraid of oversight. Why not ask the FBI to come in and look at this investigation?"

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She said she wants everyone to know that the Phoenix Police Department is "about transparency and accountability."

Earlier this week, the Phoenix Police Department released some of the body-camera video from the incident. While police have footage of the actual shooting and what led up to it, they have not made it public. The clip the Department released starts after the gunfire.

Williams said the Department released that clip "to counter misinformation that was out there indicating that the individual in the car did not have a gun." The video shows an officer running up to the car and asking about the gun. It then shows him reaching into the vehicle through the driver's side window. When he pulls his hand out, he's holding a handgun.

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Williams went on to say that she wants "to get in the process of being able to release that body-worn camera footage earlier." Right now, Department policy is to release body-cam video within 45 days of the incident.

"Forty-five days is too long," Williams said Thursday. She would like to see the video come out within two weeks, but that depends on the status of the investigation. "We are working towards that 14-day process, keeping in mind that we're still interviewing witnesses. We're still interviewing people who were on the scene. I won't jeopardize the investigation because people are calling for me to do something faster than we're ready to release."

Arizona's Family asked Williams about the Department's investigation in the shooting of Dion Johnson by a Department of Public Safety trooper on Memorial Day. The case was turned over to the Maricopa County Attorney's Office yesterday. Williams confirmed the case has been submitted but said she could not comment further on that investigation.

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"People keep asking us questions, to release things with immediacy," she said. "We still have a responsibility to properly investigate for everyone's peace of mind."

Arizona's Family also asked the chief about the general distrust of law enforcement since George Floyd's death while in police custody in March. The four former Minneapolis officers involved are now facing charges. The man who was seen in viral video with is knee on Floyd's neck has been charged with murder. Williams admitted that the current climate of suspicion makes it "very challenging" for police to do their jobs.

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"But I won't say all of the public doesn't trust law enforcement. I will not subscribe to that theory," she said. "There are some people who don't trust us, and at the end of the day, that's something that we have to live with every single day, every single contact. We live to build that trust. … It is not unique for us to have challenges in this profession, but we rise to the occasion all the time. We adjust. We learn. We improve."

She also said despite what some people say, she does not believe there is a problem with systematic racism in the Phoenix Police Department.

"I know that we train against that," she said. "I know we hire people against that. I know that there are men and women out there of all ethnicities … who day in and day out walk the line of treating people with dignity and respect. … That's part of our mission statement."

"What we see on social media day in and day out are interactions with law enforcement with males of color or people of color that have been challenging to us," she continued. "We are going to have to be forced to change and adjust and improve. But that improvement and that changing and that adjusting happens every single day with every single stop and with every single contact."

 

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