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Changes Coming After Phoenix Police Officer Shooting Study

Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams says she’s committed to following nine recommendations from an outside group that studied her officers’ actions.

Last year, Phoenix officers opened fire 44 times, the highest number of officer-involved shootings in the country. The city hired the non-profit, non-partisan National Police Foundationto figure out why there was an increase and what to do about it.

→ Read The Full Report

Jim Burch oversaw the report and, during a Friday news conference, said the number of single officers responding to a scene that led to a shooting significantly increased from prior years.

“While this doesn’t justify in and of itself the use of deadly force, it certainly has impact on officer decision making as well as officer safety considerations,” he said.

A staffing study, more realistic training, better data collection and more community engagement are among the recommendations. The report also recommends officers document each time they draw their weapon and point it at a citizen.

“There are some nuances with how this should be done,” Burch said. “It is a burden, an added burden on officers, but it is necessary data for us to understand how many interactions with citizens could have become deadly that did not.”

The study found one area of strong agreement between officers and police critics: the city needs a comprehensive approach to mental health issues and crisis response.

→ Read The Recommendations

Mayor Kate Gallego said officers responded to at least 4,100 suicide calls in the last year and brought 12,500 people to behavioral health facilities.

“We as elected officials need to step up and support our police officers, make sure they get the additional resources that they need in this area,” she said. “I’ve asked the city manager to create a work group that can continue the work we’ve done with this report, help us implement it and learn from best

Chief Williams said she sees the study’s 9th recommendation as an opportunity to develop stronger partnerships with our mental health providers and behavioral health system within the community.

“A tangible example could be and include the mental health professional riding side by side in a car with a patrol officer or the crisis intervention team squad,” she said.

Williams said the department will partner with representatives from various city offices to examine best practices across this country and gather statistical information for guidance.

“It will be our goal the goal is to have a work product to discuss with the mayor and update within sixty days as we further progress,” she said.

→ Read Chief Williams' Executive Summary

As a senior field correspondent, Christina Estes focuses on stories that impact our economy, your wallet and public policy.