PHOENIX — As Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams retires this summer, soon the search will begin for the next chief.
Williams’ successor will have to have some significant challenges in the department.
"I think the next chief is going to have a hard job," Mike Parra, retired Phoenix police commander said.
Open Department of Justice investigation
In August of 2021, the Department of Justice opened an investigation into the City of Phoenix and the Phoenix Police Department.
The investigation is looking into the department’s use of force, retaliatory activity against protestors, and officers’ treatment of the homeless population, among other issues.
Parra said it’s trust that the next chief will need to build in the department and the community.
“It's a great department. It just needs more leadership and guidance to be able to get them through the tough times. And that's what they need. They need to build that trust,” Parra said.
Police injured on job, staffing shortages
In recent weeks, police officers in Phoenix have been in the line of fire, shot, rammed and otherwise attacked.
Since December, more than a dozen officers have been injured while on the job.
That’s happening, while the department is struggling with staffing shortages and officers leaving the force.
Earlier this year, the Phoenix Police Department had to move more than 100 officers from specialty units to patrol.
Adding to the strain of officers already facing life-threatening situations.
The Fraternal Order of Police in Phoenix writing, in part:
“It is unacceptable not to hire officers when the City is flush with revenue and while we continue to lose experienced cops to neighboring cities offering bonuses and better pay,” Lou Manganiello, President of Fraternal Order of Police Phoenix Lodge 2 said.
Lawsuit settlements paid out
During Williams’ tenure, millions have been paid out in settlements by the City of Phoenix.
Two of those settlements included $3 million to the family of Ryan Whitaker, an Ahwatukee man who was shot and killed by a Phoenix police officer in 2020, and $5 million to the family of Muhammad Muhaymin, a Maryvale man killed in police custody in 2017.
It’s money, David Chami, a civil rights attorney, said could have been invested in the department instead.
“I would imagine that that $8 million, could have been better spent on hiring, better quality, better-trained police officers,” Chami said.
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