Police and community relations are receiving a lot of attention in the Phoenix Valley as incidents of violence both by and against police officers continue to rise.
According to a recent Arizona Republic article, Phoenix police officers have fired their guns during altercations 21 times so far in 2016, compared with 17 times total in 2015.
Initiatives to ease tensions between police and Phoenix residents were the focus of the first fall meeting of the Phoenix Human Relations Commission this week.
Jeremy Helfgot, a fourth year commission member, feels strongly that the HRC has helped put programs in place that can improve the relationship.
“We’ve been one of the driving forces behind de-escalation training, the standing up of the dedicated squads to deal with the response, and body cameras.”
Mayor Stanton and the city council approved the rollout of body cameras for all frontline officers earlier this year, and budget for the project was recently approved, according to Helfgot.
There is a 5-year plan to get body cameras on all officers, according to Marchelle Franklin, Director of Police Community Affairs.
Franklin said Phoenix police are excited for the full rollout of the cameras.
“They know the benefit they have, both to the community in increasing that trust, as well as helping our officers feel that if they are doing what they are supposed to be doing, body cameras also give them coverage.”
While the cameras are still being rolled out to Phoenix police, ASU campus police already have them. Officer Ron Martinez, an ASU police officer, believes the cameras are necessary to hold everyone accountable.
“Once it’s on the camera it can’t be deleted by myself or the captain. It can only be downloaded and someone has to review it. I couldn’t do something and then say oh I forgot I had my camera on I want to delete it,” he said.
Helfgot hopes the HRV committee can do more to ease tensions and reduce violence, especially incidents like the targeting of police officers in the QuikTrip parking lot last week.
“We need the community to understand, there will be things that happen, no department is perfect, but they’ve invested money, resources, time, a huge amount of human capital into doing the things that the community has been asking them to do,” he said.
The HRC also voted during the meeting to issue a statement on the QuickTrip incident, condemning all violence as a form of self-expression. HRC statements are published through the media and are presented to the mayor and the city council as a suggestion for policy decisions.