Phoenix started reviewing five years of data on shootings by police officers in hopes of learning what can be done better and avoiding potential legal trouble with the federal government.
The Police Department will study factors and situations that lead to violent confrontations, Police Chief Daniel Garcia said. “(It) is critically important for us because it can save our officers’ lives and citizens’ lives.”
Results are expected in the fall, The Arizona Republic reported Thursday.
Phoenix police were involved in 31 shootings in 2013, the most in one year since 29 were recorded in 2002. The 2013 total is up significantly from the 18 in 2012 and 20 in 2011.
Garcia said he ordered the study after seeing other Western cities face U.S. Justice Department use-of-force investigations. In recent years, the federal government scrutinized police practices in Las Vegas, Seattle and Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Department officials will collect and review data such as addresses of incidents and drug and toxicology results. They will also look at whether officers used non-lethal compliance measures and whether initial reports of an armed suspect were accurate.
That data is already collected in use-of-force investigations, but Phoenix police Sgt. Trent Crump said it’s never been collated for a study.
Officials said there could be new training opportunities if the analysis sheds light on factors leading to shootings, such as suspects’ drug intoxication.
The Phoenix police chief said he wants his department to correct any problems before federal officials step in.
“Let’s be blunt,” Garcia said. “If you find yourself in that category, you’re probably too late. I want a department that is transparent to our community and transparent in our policing tactics.”
Garcia said the city is looking at findings and recommendations resulting from a federal review of the Las Vegas police force.
Phoenix is taking the right approach with the audit, said Bernard Melekian, the director of the Justice Department’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services when the agency worked with Las Vegas.
“If agencies can do this kind of introspective analysis of their own operations and make those changes on their own without the time and expense and aggravation of the legal process, then the whole collaborative reform model has proved itself,” Melekian said of the alternative to an official investigation and settlement decree.