Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego took a risk with civilian police scrutiny


Opinion: Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego took a risk by voting for a measure that concerns her – one that will most surely come back to bite her.

Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego has outdone herself in her attempt to derail a civilian oversight of alleged police misconduct.

Gallego proposed its own version of the external police review without investigative powers, but was forced to drop it and became the deciding vote on a plan that will almost certainly incur the ire of the police union in the city. city ​​and its supporters.

At the end of a lengthy council meeting on Tuesday where more than 40 people begged for action, Gallego voted to create a new civilian oversight office. The measure was adopted by 5 votes to 4.

The mayor miscalculated his own move, since she obviously didn’t have the votes for his plan. But you have to give it to him. She could have abandoned her proposal and killed the competitor defended by city councilor Carlos García.

Gallego won public praise

“I believe our officers do heroic things every day, and I’m grateful for that,” Gallego said after voting for Garcia’s plan. She expressed concern about the establishment of the review board, but added that she understood the importance of reaching the finish line.

It drew praise from fellow council members and cheers from the mostly Hispanic and African-American residents who argued for it.

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The new plan, which has been fiercely opposed by the city’s police union, creates a new civilian oversight office. It allows a staff member of this office to question an officer during an internal affairs investigation and to represent the interests of citizens who file a complaint against the police department.

The office will produce its own report with disciplinary recommendations to the Chief of Police, who has the final say.

In other words, the office will have investigative powers. It was the brainchild of García, who campaigned on this issue and orchestrated Tuesday’s victory.

“It’s the start, and hopefully we can make sure we follow the implementation,” he said.

The city will now establish the details of the Civil Oversight Office.

But expect a challenge from the police

It’s really a big step for Phoenix to join a growing number of major cities like Los Angeles, New York and Denver that have some sort of civil review process to oversee cases of police misconduct.

The idea is not new. It grew out of the civil rights movement of the 1960s, when blacks and Latinos were separated and faced rampant police brutality.

This remains a burning issue. Councilman Sal DiCiccio called the Phoenix plan “the most radical, extremist, anti-police plan in the whole fucking country.”

“This plan is going to destroy the morale of the police department, and it’s going to put our public at risk,” DiCiccio said, voting against.

But García and others say civilian oversight is needed to build trust between police and minorities and to end police brutality.

They point to reports that Phoenix police averaged 17 shootings per 1 million residents from 2011 to 2018. Police shot 212 people, killing about half during that time.

It’s a huge win for Garcia. He represents a predominantly Latino and African American district, and now he has delivered a high-profile campaign promise to them.

But for Gallego, Tuesday’s vote is problematic at best. She faces re-election this year, and no doubt the police union will pursue her with a vengeance. She took a huge risk, which is a testament to leadership.

Elvia Díaz is an editorial columnist for The Arizona Republic and azcentral.com. Contact her at 602-444-8606 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter, @elviadiaz1.

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