In wake of several incidents that have strained the relationship between the Phoenix Police Department and the community, the department announced today that several changes will be made in one its most trouble-plagued precincts.
Whenever there's a problem regarding the Phoenix PD, it seems to almost always have something to do with the South Mountain Precinct, which patrols one of the more dangerous sections of Phoenix. Several incidents -- most notably, the shooting of an unarmed Hispanic man by a white officer, and another incident where an officer roughed up a black city councilman -- have led to allegations of racism and discrimination against the precinct.
But Phoenix Police Chief (or whatever we're calling him these days) Jack Harris says he's committed to keeping the public's trust and says changes will be made.
Harris recently replaced the commander of the precinct with Chris Crockett -- who happens to be black -- and says more changes are in the works.
"In addition to the change of the precinct Commander, on November 15th six precinct Lieutenants will transfer from South Mountain Precinct to other assignments within the City," Harris says in a statement issued this afternoon. "The purpose for this leadership change is to offer police management a new perspective and fresh eyes for continued emphasis on developing community policing strategies, which support increased community partnerships, organizational transformation, and problem-solving."
Harris acknowledges problems within the precinct, saying "over the past several months, our Police Department has experienced several incidents that brought into question how officers perform their duties. Many of these allegations are not justified; however, some are."
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Harris says losing the support of the community is "not an option."
Phoenix-based civil rights leader Jarrett Maupin tells New Times the changes are encouraging but they're just the beginning of what needs to be done with not only the South Mountain Precinct but the department as a whole.
"I applaud the chief for making the changes," Maupin says. "But I don't see a clear plan from the chief to improve relationships with [city residents]."
Maupin says there are still more questions than answers when it comes to the department but he's willing to give Harris a chance, despite the fact that many civil rights leaders and other community activists have called for Harris to resign. Maupin says "I'm not on that boat yet, but I'm in line ready to buy a ticket."