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Phoenix council creates city's first civilian review office for alleged police misconduct

Police union leader says activists want to eliminate police departments.

PHOENIX — The Phoenix City Council voted 5-4 Wednesday to create the city's first civilian review board for alleged police misconduct.

Phoenix was the largest city in the country whose police department did not have any civilian oversight, despite decades of calls for civilian review from communities of color.

Here are three takeaways:

What the civilian review office does

The Office of Accountability and Transparency will be based in the city manager's office, separate from the Police Department.

The office will have a budget of $3 million and its own paid staff.

Civilians can review and monitor alleged police misconduct, and initiate independent investigations. 

New swing vote for office

The City Council vote Wednesday came after a 5-4 vote last November that rejected enshrining the civilian review office in city law.

The difference this time: The swing vote was newly-elected Councilwoman Yassamin Ansari. Ansari provided the crucial fifth “yes” vote to create the office. 

What the mayor is saying

Mayor Kate Gallego issued this statement after the meeting:

"We are making a powerful commitment to improve the relationship between law enforcement and the people of Phoenix. Today’s creation of the Office of Accountability and Transparency is an enormous positive step – alongside many others – that we have recently taken to improve accountability.”  

Police union reaction

Michael “Britt” London, president of the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association, the largest union representing Phoenix police, said the union was “extremely disappointed” by the vote:

"We are extremely disappointed that the Phoenix City Council chose to ignore the concerns of local law enforcement and establish a new political entity that will continue the divisive narrative against our men and women in uniform. 

Our existing mechanisms provide civilian oversight with the opportunity to question officers in Discipline Review Boards and Use of Force Boards.

Let me be abundantly clear: We support transparency and accountability, and we’ve worked diligently with community leaders on real solutions. Yet this effort to create the Office of Accountability and Transparency is led by activist organizations that seek to eliminate our police department and implement their own progressive agenda."

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