Photo courtesy Associated Press. Photo courtesy Associated Press.

The Phoenix police union is pushing back on the department chief’s decision to ban the use of chokeholds by its officers.

The Phoenix Police Department has banned the use of a “carotid control” technique by its officers–more commonly known as a chokehold–effective immediately.

Over the last week, Phoenix and other communities have faced calls from critics to disband police agencies or redirect funding from law enforcement operations to community development programs.

“We can’t function as a department without the trust of our community and there are adjustments we can make to strengthen that trust,” Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams said in a statement. “We pride ourselves on being an organization willing to learn and evolve, to listen to our community and become better.”

On June 8, Williams said it was an honor to represent Phoenix on a new Police Reform and Racial Justice Working Group that hopes to produce, advance, and enact meaningful reforms to address police violence. 

“I am committed to finding solutions to strengthen police and community relations,” said Williams. “We will move forward as a country as we move forward in each of our communities.”

Britt London, president of the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association, expressed frustration Friday over the scrutiny that officers across the nation are getting as a result of the May 25 death of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis.

An uprising against police brutality began last month, when a Minneapolis police officer held his knee on the neck of 46-year-old George Floyd for nearly nine minutes, resulting in Floyd’s death.

London said he understands the pain and frustration people feel over Floyd’s death, but argued that upstanding officers shouldn’t have to face false assumptions that they’re racist. London also defended the use of chokeholds as a form of restraint.

“We are unsure how suspending the Carotid Control Technique accomplishes the goal of strengthening trust with the community, since the technique has not been viewed negatively within the Phoenix Police Department,” ,” London said in a released statement. “Our members are anxiously awaiting information regarding a replacement for this less-lethal response option.”

Over the last several weeks, Phoenix and other communities have faced calls from critics to disband police agencies or redirect funding from law enforcement operations to community development programs.

Joel Cornejo, a leader of the Tempe-based human rights group Semillas and a proponent of abolishing police departments, said people don’t have time to wait for police culture to change. Cornejo said officers take the wrong approach to their jobs.

“They don’t care about the feelings of the community,” Cornejo said. “They only care about protecting their business.”

Over the last two weeks, thousands of demonstrators have been gathering regularly in downtown Phoenix to protest police brutality.

The announcement of the chokehold ban comes following two weeks of nationwide protests, including here in Phoenix, against police brutality following the death of George Floyd. 

Policing Initiatives To Enhance Community Trust

“We hear you.”⠀ ⠀It’s a message Police Chief Jeri Williams has repeated in her meetings with the community over the last 10 days. But she’s been working for much longer to make the Phoenix Police Department more transparent and build trust with the community. From body-worn cameras to changes in how new officers are trained, this outlines what’s different now than it was 12 months ago. (‪https://www.phoenix.gov/newsroom/police/1328‬)

Posted by Phoenix Police Department on Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego reacted to the news of the Phoenix police officer chokehold ban saying that, “As Mayor of Phoenix, I strongly support the decision of Police Chief Williams.”

ACLU of Arizona also reacted to this news, saying, “Chokeholds should’ve been banned long ago.” The organization also challenged that “more must be done to change the role of police in our society.” 

Democrats in the House of Representatives are proposing criminal reform legislation that would ban chokeholds nationwide, eliminate shields that often protect officers from lawsuits, and also require body cameras.