PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - The Phoenix City Council narrowly approved a new department to oversee police misconduct investigations, but some say the framework of the Office of Accountability and Transparency violates a new state law. "What they're doing will be illegal when this law is effective," says state Rep. John Kavanagh, sponsor of HB 2567.

HB 2567 says any government committee, board or entity investigating law enforcement misconduct, influencing misconduct investigations and recommending disciplinary action must be made up of two-thirds sworn officers. Despite criticism that the bill outlaws civilian review boards, Gov. Doug Ducey signed HB 2567 into law earlier this month. The new law will go into effect by the end of the summer.

For months, the City of Phoenix has been ironing out the details of a proposed Office of Accountability and Transparency. With the City Council voting Wednesday night to approve OAT, Rep. Kavanagh and some law enforcement labor groups are preparing for legal action.

"I can ask the attorney general to render an opinion as to whether or not they are defying the law," says Kavanagh. "And if they are, we do an expedited case to the Arizona Supreme Court."

According to the city ordinance establishing OAT, employees of the office and their immediate family members must not have a history working for any law enforcement agency.

The Arizona Police Association believes any police review entity recommending police policy or discipline should be made up of members familiar with the job.

"Go to every other professional oversight board, whether that's lawyers, teachers, doctors, nurses, realtors, and look at the composition of all their professional oversight boards and see that they are similar," says Joe Clure, executive director of APA.

Rep. John  Kavanagh

"I can ask the attorney general to render an opinion as to whether or not they are defying the law," says Rep. John  Kavanagh.

Terry Blevins, a retired Arizona deputy and board member with the Law Enforcement Action Partnership, agrees law enforcement officers must have a seat at the table, but he believes they should not outnumber civilian members because it could stifle positive changes in policing.

"Right off the bat we have a perception problem," says Blevins. "It looks like we're stacking the deck against any kind of reform or any kind of accountability."

Despite opinions on what fair police review looks like, many expect the issue to result in a court battle.

"We have a state law that says 'X,' we have a city trying to do 'Y' and that 'X' and 'Y' are not the same. They are in conflict," says legal analyst Monica Lindstrom.

Lindstrom predicts either side will ask a judge to stop forward motion, whether that means temporarily keeping the new state law from going into effect or pausing the implementation of OAT.

On Thursday, the City of Phoenix would not comment on the possibility of a lawsuit as it conducts its own legal review. The Phoenix Police Department provided a statement on council approval of OAT:

"Accountability and transparency have and will continue to be a top priority for Chief Williams. The Phoenix Police Department will work with the Office of Accountability and Transparency (OAT) and welcome any recommendations which will complement the reforms and changes we are making to build credibility with our community."

Copyright 2021 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


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