Update: A spokesperson for the city said they only collected 125 comment cards, not “thousands” as the moderator had previously stated. They handed out thousands of cards for people to fill out. Over 2,000 people attended the meeting.
Last week, thousands of people packed into Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church on South 14th and East Jefferson streets for a community meeting after a young couple’s jarring encounter with Phoenix police made international news. Throughout the meeting, two city officials took notes as the crowd spoke.
Through a records request, Phoenix New Times obtained a summary of the notes written down on flip charts during the June 18 meeting, and notes on 125 comment cards from members of the community. The meeting’s moderator, Eric Bailey, said they had collected “thousands” of comment cards. It’s unclear why only 125 comment cards were included in the request.
A spokesperson for Mayor Kate Gallego, Annie Degraw, said they could not yet discuss takeaways from the meeting and did not immediately respond when asked if there are additional comment cards not included in the request or if there were in fact only 125 comment cards.
The city shared a two-page, bullet-point list of the notes taken during the nearly three-hour meeting. Some of the takeaways include:
- Stop trying to justify the actions of officer Christopher Meyer. Stop criminalizing victims.
- The department is not transparent, and people shouldn’t have to find out from the media that someone they loved was killed by police or sue the department in order to get a police report.
- The chief should quickly give information to families who request it when their loved ones are killed.
- Punish officers who shoot people or commit misconduct. Give an officer a warning after the first mistake; fire them after the second. Officers should be held to the highest standard of conduct.
- Prosecute them, fire them, and/or make them unable to collect a salary or pension while they are being investigated. De-incentivize officers.
- Implement early warning systems.
- Make officers undergo regular drug screenings.
- Don’t hire more officers if they cannot be screened properly.
- Do not allow officers who kill or commit misconduct to be investigated by their peers; they should be investigated by the community.
- Create a civilian review board with subpoena and firing power.
- Business should have their own security, not use the police.
- “One bad cop makes all cops bad.”
- “Who runs the police department? PLEA or the chief? Find cancer and eliminate it.”
Police Chief Jeri Williams, Executive Assistant Police Chief Michael Kurtenbach, Mayor Kate Gallego, City Manager Ed Zuercher, and several others also took notes at the meeting. New Times submitted public records requests for those notes as well, but has not yet received the notes.
Some of the notes reflect stories told by family members whose loved ones were shot and killed by Phoenix police.
“The chief wants to talk about transparency? We had to sue you to get his police report. I got his police report today, and it’s inconsistent with the autopsy I got,” said Roland Harris, the father of Jacob Harris, who was shot and killed by Phoenix police this past January.
“David Norman, your officer — my son was the third victim of that police officer, do you understand that, Chief? He killed three people before my son!” Harris said. Norman has shot three people before, two of whom died. Another officer involved in Harris’ death, Kris Bertz, shot and killed one person before, in 2017, The Arizona Republic found.
The summary of notes taken at the meeting shows that someone wrote down “Investigate unit,” but did not specify the unit Harris was talking about. Specifically, Harris said the SAU or Special Assignment Unit should be investigated.
“I want that officer fired…he will never go to jail…Have your SAU unit investigated, because my son is not the first one they’ve killed,” Harris says. The room applauds again as he sits back down.
— Meg O’Connor (@megoconnor13) June 19, 2019
At the end of the meeting, Mayor Gallego promised to return in 30 days with recommendations. The following day, community members spoke at a City Council meeting and asked the council not to pass the city’s annual budget, which allocates over $720 million to the police department, until they implement a civilian review board. Phoenix is the largest city in the country without any independent oversight of police.
Phoenix police officers also shot far more people last year than any other law enforcement agency in the United States. Phoenix police shot at people 44 times last year. Meanwhile, the NYPD shot at people 23 times. The NYPD has nearly 40,000 police officers. Phoenix has roughly 3,000 officers.
Yesterday, Gallego called a special meeting to discuss adopting a civilian review board, the Arizona Republic reported. The meeting will be held on Tuesday, July 2, at 2:30 p.m. at 200 West Jefferson Street. Per the Republic, the council will also discuss the possibility of moving forward with an early intervention system to detect problem officers and funding a citywide survey examining how different communities feel about the police department.
Poder in Action called for reform.
Many of the 125 comment cards collected at the meeting express similar sentiments: the need for greater transparency and accountability, appropriate disciplinary measures, and implicit bias and de-escalation training. Some comment cards contained particularly novel or actionable advice.
Tania Gerard requested the city create a registry of police officers involved in less than professional treatment, which would be accessible to the public to monitor disciplinary action.
Xenia Orona called for the officers involved in the Ames video be fired, the creation of a citizen review board with firing power, and instant public access to body camera footage via an online system without need of subpoena.
Carmen Cutler submitted a card urging Gallego and Williams to implement clear, transparent accountability measures for all officers who use lethal force, excessive force, or exhibit unprofessional behavior, overseen by an outside agency and community led.
Samantha Lantz submitted a card stating, “In a recent interview Jeri Williams stated the officers in question deserve due process and she would like to know why the same courtesy was not/is not extended to the individuals the Phoenix Police Department comes into contact with.”
Tabitha Perry said the city should consider using police pensions to pay for lawsuits coming from this type of police behavior, which costs taxpayers.
The community’s unhappiness with the Phoenix Police Department reached a boiling point two weeks ago when a video went viral of a Phoenix police officer threatening to shoot a young black family after their toddler walked out of a dollar store with a doll.
Dravon Ames, 22, his pregnant fiancée, Iesha Harper, and their two young children were accosted by officer Christopher Meyer on May 27 following the alleged shoplifting incident. Video of the encounter, filmed by residents of the apartment complex, has been viewed hundreds of thousands of times worldwide and brought renewed scrutiny to a department already reeling from the revelation that 97 officers had shared racist posts on social media. Phoenix police released a report regarding the incident that left out many key details.
In the video, Meyer can be heard saying, “I’m gonna put a fucking cap in your fucking head” and “You’re gonna fucking get shot!” Another officer can be seen pointing a gun at the car with the children inside. Meyer later attempts to yank Harper’s 1-year-old daughter out of her arms and screams at her to place her baby on the scorching hot pavement.
“My hands are up! My hands are up!” 22yo Dravon Ames says as a Phoenix police officer yells to “get your fucking hands up.” The same officer later says “You’re gonna fucking get shot!”
Ames says the officers stopped him after his child walked out of a Dollar Store with a doll. pic.twitter.com/Nlkd7IXsyc
— Meg O’Connor (@megoconnor13) June 12, 2019
Another man, Dante Patterson, later came forward to report how Meyer pepper-sprayed him as he was walking away in January 2018. Patterson made a complaint about Meyer’s conduct with the Professional Standards Bureau last year, but said the department’s lackluster investigation into their own officer found no misconduct.
Some of the suggestions made by community members didn’t seem to make the city’s list. During the meeting at Pilgrim Rest, some suggested involving the community in creating police department policy, others said officers who are on the Brady list, a list of officers who are so untrustworthy prosecutors must disclose the officer’s reputation to the defense, should be fired.
While Gallego and Williams assured community members they were heard during the lengthy meeting, people didn’t seem to believe it. The crowd still expressed frustration on the way out of the church, and outside the church, some continued to protest. Two men walking toward their cars called the 30-day promise for recommendations “a joke.”
Poder in Action demonstrated outside the church entrance.