The city of Phoenix announced this week a new rule requiring officers to track and document every single instance in which they aim their guns at citizens.
At a press conference Monday, Mayor Kate Gallego said the change was the result of a series of recommendations from the National Police Foundation, and were created with input from local residents and city employees.
Police Chief Jeri Williams hailed the new tracking measure, which topped the suggestion list, as “an important step in our relationship building.”
“Our updated record management system now allows us to track these incidents, [and] will allow us to have a real idea of how many times our officers are able to successfully de-escalate an incident and a situation with the potential of deadly force,” Williams said in a statement.
As part of the new changes, Phoenix officers must also complete at least eight hours of mental health training and wear body-worn cameras while on duty, according to Gallego.
The move comes just months after the Phoenix Police Department faced intense scrutiny for their violent treatment of an African-American family suspected of shoplifting. Officers faced allegations of excessive force after videos from the May 27 incident showed police threatening and assaulting 22-year-old Dravon Ames, then pointing their guns at his pregnant girlfriend, Aisha Harper, and their two young children.
The confrontation was reportedly sparked over a toy doll taken from a local Family Dollar store.
Bystander video showed Ames, lying face-down on the ground with his hands cuffed behind his back. An officer then yanks him off the ground before slamming him against a police cruiser.
Seconds later, the cop sweep-kicks the young man’s leg out from under him, causing him to stumble.
“When I tell you to do something, you f—–g do it!” the officer screams, later threatening to “fucking put a cap in your fucking head.”
“You’re going to get f——g shot,” the officer tells Ames, who showed no signs of being uncooperative.
Meanwhile, another officer approached the suspect’s vehicle with his gun drawn and orders Harper and her two daughters “to get out of the fucking car.” Recalling the harrowing encounter, the young woman said one of the officers came to their car and started banging on the window with his gun, saying “… he’s going to shoot us in our face. He hasn’t alerted us that we’re being pulled over anything.”
Ames said the officer seemed “trigger happy” and intent on shooting someone that day.
Both Gallego and Williams have apologized to Ames and his girlfriend for the incident — an apology the couple called “a slap in the face.”
Phoenix officials said they hope the new tracking initiative will increase transparency with the public by showing situations that have been de-escalated and gunfire avoided. Not everyone is on board with the idea, however.
Retired Phoenix Police commander Jeff Hynes fears the new rule could cause officers to hesitate during life-or-death encounters.
“If you have an officer take that reflective moment, that pause, it’s going to reduce your numbers, but the other edge of that sword is at what cost?” Hynes told Arizona’s CBS 5.”
He continued: ““If I pull my gun, the administration is going to look at it. The public is going to look at it, and that split second, that pause could mean the difference between somebody being injured or killed or a fellow partner being injured or killed.”
In 2018, Phoenix PD saw a record-breaking 44 police shootings — more than another other U.S. city, according to Huff Post. This year is expected to close with much lowers numbers, as there have only been nine officer-involved shootings through July 16 of 2019, an Arizona Republic database shows.