By New Times
By Connor Radnovich
By Robrt L. Pela and Amy Silverman
By Ray Stern
By Keegan Hamilton
By Matthew Hendley
By Monica Alonzo
By Monica Alonzo
Throwing another fit over the report would have been counterproductive.
Tillman's first outburst--the press conference calling for Ortega's resignation--put everyone on notice. (He'd been trying for almost a year to deal quietly with the chief behind the scenes.) Now that he had City Hall's undivided attention, he could afford to be gracious.
In interviews before the March 29 sit-down, Reverend Tillman elaborated upon his two principal goals.
"There must be realistic police review. A citizens' oversight panel must be appointed by people representing the various segments of the community . . . Asian, black, Hispanic. Let people appoint this panel rather than the mayor and the council, who will always opt for people who won't rock the boat. Today, if a citizen has a complaint, it goes to the police department's Internal Affairs Bureau. The police investigate the police. They still work for the same boss. How many times are you going to tell your boss that people are screwing up and still keep your job?"
Tillman's other area of concern is moonlighting officers--over 780 officers in the 2,000-member force--who supplement their income by working off-duty as Officer Stallman and Sergeant Lemons did the night Johnny Ray King was shot.
(Though moonlighting officers must secure the permission of their supervisor and are required by the department to wear their full police uniforms, the city refuses to accept any liability in lawsuits that result from the conduct of off-duty police officers.)
"It goes back to who has control over off-duty employment," said Tillman. "I know it's a sore point for officers, but it's a manageable issue. Who in the upper echelon checks what is going on? Do any of them go out and do field checks? Who monitors the contracts? Any time an officer's `behavior' is brought to the attention of this department, that officer should not be working off-duty. Not that we want to tie the hands of officers, but if you believe conduct will be scrutinized, you behave better."
Tillman felt that after the March 29 meeting, he'd made some small progress on his two larger goals. He could afford to be magnanimous over the report's obvious shortcomings.
"I have some serious reservations about the report," commented Tillman in a lengthy interview following the City Hall meeting. "But I wanted to demonstrate that we were dealing with issues, not personalities. Picking apart that report won't get us anywhere."
According to Tillman, city manager Frank Fairbanks "vowed to go forward with a study to establish a citizens' review board in some form. And as I have said, I will be back here every month until we get something concrete."
Reverend Tillman may yet be compelled to make these monthly visits. According to Phoenix City Councilmember Calvin Goode, who presided over both the February 11 and March 29 meetings, the city manager has agreed to review the current system in Phoenix and analyze how other cities handle excessive-force complaints. This commitment is several long steps from meaningful reform.
"We are going to see if our approach works as well as it ought to," said Councilman Goode.
The study, which will be administered by Manion, will be conducted by Ortega as well as the city's Budget and Research Department.
"We were concerned that the police not examine the process by themselves," said Manion. "The city also committed to a joint workshop of the NAACP and the police department involving sensitivity training for the chiefs."
On Tillman's second front, the city and Chief Ortega turned over to the minister for review the thick packet of guidelines that the police department uses currently in the employment of off-duty officers. For the past year, Chief Ortega had refused even to discuss the matter with the minister.
But events had turned this stalemate into an embarrassment.
The week before the March 29 meeting with the representatives of City Hall, Reverend Tillman made another attempt to breach the barricades at the police department. In an impromptu meeting with assistant chief Bennie Click, the minister once again sought to establish a command-level outlet for grievances of the black community. To his surprise, Tillman found a receptive ear; to his shock, Tillman found Chief Ortega "popping into the meeting with Click, saying this was just the sort of dialogue we needed and I should stop by more often for coffee." While suited dignitaries on both sides of the issues staked out their positions, the streets and courtrooms of Phoenix continued to churn through incidents that pointed out the need for reform.
ON MARCH 14, Mayor Paul Johnson attacked the National Football League; a retired black man sat transfixed by the videotape of California cops beating a motorist half to death; Phoenix Police Chief Ruben Ortega's response to Tillman was being revised at City Hall; a black woman left her home for a night on the town; and Reverend Tillman was on the redeye flight to Washington, D.C.
NAACP leaders throughout America were descending upon the nation's capital to lobby on behalf of the Civil Rights Act of 1991. In addition, Tillman would attend a Congressional hearing on police brutality. In the wake of the Rodney King videotape, Representative John Conyers and the Black Caucus had pushed for a nationwide investigation into abuse of blacks by law enforcement officers, and now the United States Justice Department was prepared to do just that. Though Reverend Tillman's call for Ortega's resignation had preceded the King videotape by a month, Tillman felt that national events were adding resonance to his demands.