Police

Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams Announces Retirement

Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams
Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams Melissa Fossum
Phoenix police chief Jeri Williams will retire "sometime this summer," she announced Tuesday morning.

"There is never a perfect time to transition but the time feels right for me now to step aside," she wrote in a lengthy statement on the decision. It's not clear when her last day will be. According to the statement, she will depart within the next several months.

"I am proud to have paved the way for this department to move forward in a positive manner while at the same time opening the door for the next Chief to enter," Williams wrote in the statement.

Williams, who grew up in west Phoenix, worked her way up through the Phoenix police department over the course of two decades. She left Arizona for several years to work as the chief of the Oxnard, California Police Department and returned to Phoenix in 2016 to take the top job.

She became the first woman to serve in the role.

Williams touted reforms that she brought to the department in her announcement, highlighting the implementation of body-worn cameras and better documentation of police shootings.

But things haven't all been smooth sailing at the Phoenix Police Department, lately. The agency is still contending with a U.S. Department of Justice investigation into its use of deadly force, sweeps of homeless encampments, and allegations of discriminatory policing.

Williams was also briefly suspended over the high-profile "ACAB gang" scandal, where Phoenix police and Maricopa County prosecutors brought bogus gang charges against more than a dozen Black Lives Matter protesters during fall 2020. Williams has said she was not informed of prosecutors' plans to file those charges.

One recent lawsuit against Williams, brought by several top officers in the department, alleges that she had scapegoated her subordinates for the gang charges.

In a separate statement, the city of Phoenix said that the city manager will now hire an "external interim chief," who will serve as the chief through the DOJ probe. At some point, the city will begin a search for a permanent replacement; it's unclear if that will wait until after the probe is complete.

Williams will remain police chief until the new interim chief joins the department. 
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Katya Schwenk is a staff writer for Phoenix New Times. Originally from Burlington, Vermont, she now covers issues ranging from policing to far-right politics here in Phoenix. She has worked as a breaking news correspondent in Rabat, Morocco, for Morocco World News, a government technology reporter for Scoop News Group in Washington, D.C., and a local reporter in Vermont for VTDigger. Her freelance work has been published in Business Insider, the Intercept, and the American Prospect, among other places.
Contact: Katya Schwenk