Phoenix Chief of Police comments on increase in officer shootings
March 19, 2018
Phoenix Chief of Police Jeri Williams discusses the nine incidents that involved a criminal charging an officer which led to the officer firing their weapon.
“A number of factors are going on,” Williams says. “We have in each of these incidents – eight of them involved firearms, one involved a knife – criminals who are intent on committing violent crimes in the community. It’s been alarming to us.”
Williams says the officers have extensive de-escalation training and crisis intervention team training. They are taught to fire their weapon only when the individual makes the “choice to engage law enforcement in this direction,” Williams says. The chief of police says the question isn’t why there are so many officer shootings, but why are there so many people being non-compliant?
The Phoenix Police Department are currently working with Arizona State University on a research studying the answer to that question. The research is meant to find what the cause and effect of the situations are and why the individuals are non-compliant.
Williams, who’s been in law enforcement for 29 years, has seen how deescalation tactics have increased over the years. She says training has evolved over time because of one major impact – cell phone videos. Everyone records everything at all times now. While the videos only provide a limited perspective on what’s going on, viewers are still quick to make judgement calls on the scenes. The training has changed to evolve with time and new technology.
“No officer wants to be involved in an officer involved shooting. I will say that all day,” Williams says. “The emotional toll it takes on these men and women who are involved in these incidents and the witness officers and the investigators is chilling.”
When an officer is involved in a shooting, they go through a couple different investigations. There’s a criminal investigation that tells whether or not the use of force was justified by the county attorney’s office. Then there’s the administrative investigation that checks if there were any policy or tactical violations.
“The office has to go through that from start to finish when he or she is responding to a choice someone else made to engage in violence,” Williams says. “Fortunately for us, we have a great employee assistance program… This not only rocks the worlds of the officers, but it rocks their families.”
Williams says she wants the public to know that firing a weapon is an officer’s last resort. There’s never any intention from the officer to harm a community member. However, if an officer’s life or another person’s life is threatened by the criminal, the officer is forced to react.
“It is also my job and my responsibility to take care of the emotional, mental and spiritual well-being of my employees,” Williams says. “We hope the community understands that dynamic as well.”