The Phoenix Police Department (PPD) is focusing its recruitment efforts on bringing in more women and diversity staff.
PPD announced they wanted female officers to make up 30 percent of their force. Presently, women make up 14 percent of PPD’s force. The push by PPD is part of the 30×30 Initiative, a national effort to increase the number of females in police departments. PPD signed a pledge in January to fulfill the initiative.
The pledge comes at a time when PPD continues to sustain significant staffing shortages. Although PPD departures from Jan. to April were less than they were during the same time period last year according to PPD data, PPD still has over 560 vacancies to fill. Vacancies totaled 500 last June.
In an interview with 12 News, a PPD spokesman credited the reduction in departures to the $20,000 raise given to officers.
PPD credits Commander Aimee Smith for persuading the department to sign the initiative. Smith has served in PPD since 1997, working 11 years in patrol as both undercover and investigative positions, five years as a sergeant, four years as a lieutenant, and for the past five years as a commander. Smith also teaches as an adjunct criminal justice professor at Rio Salado College within the Maricopa County Community College District (MCCCD).
PPD follows in the footsteps of other police departments across the state who have already signed onto the 30×30 Initiative: Tempe, Mesa, Apache Junction, Gilbert, Queen Creek, Tucson, University of Arizona, and Arizona State University. Over 320 law enforcement departments in the U.S. have signed onto the initiative
The Secret Service, Marshals Service, Customs and Border Protection, Department of Agriculture, Supreme Court of the United States Police, IRS Criminal Investigation division, and FBI have also signed on to the 30×30 Initiative.
The 30×30 Initiative encourages special accommodations for women, including nursing stations for female officers. Some departments, like in Mesa, are developing special accommodations for women: medical benefits for life, alternative work schedules, part-time positions, and around-the-clock daycare.
The 30×30 Initiative was launched to establish “gender equity,” over equality, by artificially reducing natural disparities in law enforcement departments. The initiative is based on a Critical Race Theory (CRT) approach of weighing individuals based on intersectionality.
“Each of a woman officer’s many identities — race and ethnicity, class, gender, sexual orientation, religion, ability, and more — defines her experience, and often multiplies her exposure to discrimination,” states the initiative. “Black women and other women of color, in particular, face compounding experiences of bias and discrimination in law enforcement because of their race or ethnicity, in addition to their gender. Transgender and gender non-conforming officers face discrimination on the basis of their gender identity and presentation. Other identities, too, shape a woman officer’s experience in law enforcement: a mother or caregiver may require a modified schedule for caretaking duties, or a pregnant officer may require certain physical accommodations.”
The 30×30 Initiative issues a lengthy list of action items that it ranks “essential,” “strongly recommended,” and “recommended.” Those that are deemed essential are considered integral to fulfilling the pledge to the initiative.
Essential action items include: collecting gender, race/ethnicity, and age data on sworn officer applicants, hires, promotion applicants, promotion recipients, and separations and retirements. Also deemed essential was bias training for individuals seated on promotional panels, and for recruitment content to exactly reflect the community demographics.
The 30×30 Initiative declares that “latent bias” may exist if a department has more female applicants than female hires, and that “gender-relevant issues” may exist if a greater number of female officers voluntarily leave than men.
The initiative justifies purposeful prioritization of hiring female staff over males based on research showing that females present a reduced risk of excessive force incidents, make fewer arrests, and are named in fewer lawsuits and complaints.
However, other research shows that female officers are at a greater risk of enduring assault and sustaining injuries when responding to calls.
The 30×30 initiative works in partnership with the New York University School of Law Policing Project, the National Association of Women Law Enforcement Executives (NAWLEE), Crime and Justice Institute, Police Executive Research Forum, National Policing Institute, Law Enforcement Action Partnership, International Association of Women Police (IAWP), NOBLE National Headquarters, Women Leaders in Law Enforcement Foundation, and Women in Federal Law Enforcement.
The initiative receives funding from Arnold Ventures, a progressive philanthropic organization, and Mark43, a law enforcement-oriented technology company.
Arnold Ventures was founded by John Arnold, a billionaire hedge fund trader, and his wife, Laura.
Mark43’s angel investors included Goldman Sachs, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Hollywood actor Ashton Kutcher, and General David Petraeus.
Mark43’s co-founders — Scott Crouch, Matt Polega, and Florian Mayr — attended Harvard University together in the early 2000s. Polega interned for three months for major defense technologies contractor Raytheon in the summer of 2012 while co-founding Mark43.
It is a standard officer safety, public safety protocol for an officer to draw his or her duty weapon and point it at a suspect during a high-risk arrest. But a proposal by Phoenix PD Interim Chief Michael Sullivan would make pointing a firearm at anyone, regardless of the situation, a Level 1 reportable Use of Force action even if the gun is never discharged.
It is just one of several changes to Phoenix PD’s Use of Force policy for which Sullivan is seeking public comment, and which clearly notes the policy will be “deliberately stricter than the Constitutional and legal minimums established by the Courts.”
A number of national law enforcement organizations, however, have come out in opposition to the underlying direction of the agency’s proposal, including the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP).
According to a recent IACP Use of Force position paper, managing use of force by officers is “one of the most difficult challenges” facing law enforcement agencies.
“The responsibility of law enforcement officers to enforce the law, protect the public, and guard their own safety and that of innocent bystanders is very challenging,” the IACP noted. “Interactions with uncooperative subjects who are physically resistant present situations that may quickly escalate.”
Ideally, an officer is able to gain cooperation through the use of verbal persuasion and other de-escalation skills. But there are situations, the ICAP noted, where use of force is unavoidable.
In such instances, use of force to gain control and compliance of subjects must be “objectively reasonable,” according to the U.S. Supreme Court in Graham v. Connor, which acknowledged that an officer’s decision to use force is often made under varied scenarios and often on a split-second basis.
Most agencies base their Use of Force policies and training around Graham v. Connor, in which the justices recognized that officers do not need to use the minimum amount of force in any given situation. Instead, the officer’s use of any force must be “objectively reasonable” based upon the totality of the circumstances known to the officer at the time force was used.
The totality of the circumstances could include the immediate threat to the officer or others; the time available for an officer to make decisions in tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving circumstances; the seriousness of the crime(s) involved; whether the subject is attempting to evade or escape; and the danger the subject poses to the community.
Other factors may include prior contact with the subject; the number of officers on-scene; the age, size, and strength of the subject versus the officer; specialized skills of the officer; injury or exhaustion of the officer; whether the subject appears affected by mental illness or the influence of alcohol or other drugs; crowd-related issues; and the subject’s proximity to potential weapons.
But Sullivan wants to change the Phoenix PD Use of Force policy away from the objectively reasonable standard to a standard of “reasonable, necessary, and proportional” that goes outside the Supreme Court’s analysis and relies on a more subjective review or interpretation.
IACP has “significant concerns” with any policy or legislation which replaces the Graham v. Connor standard with a standard which opens an officer’s split second decision to a new level of interpretation that results “in endless scrutiny and second-guessing by investigators, prosecutors, and civil courts.”
AZ Free News spoke with several officers about their reaction to the proposed Use of Force changes. The officers are not being identified due to concerns of retaliation although their identities and employment have been confirmed.
One Phoenix officer said his biggest worry is that he and other officers “will hesitate for fear of being disciplined” when confronted with a threatening or potentially threatening situation.
“A moment’s hesitation can cause someone their life,” the officer said, adding he expects more officers to be injured on duty under such a vastly different standard.
He also pointed out that officers would be prohibited from using “any force” on a person whose health, age, condition, or circumstances “make it likely” that death or serious physical injury will result.
The prohibition is so broadly worded to be unclear whether an officer cannot use force to subdue a gun-wielding 80 year old who has just shot a neighbor.
Another Phoenix PD officer points to concerns with the proposed change to de-escalation tactics, which Sullivan wants to expand to include withdrawing from the scene.
According to the officer, current policy allows for retreating from a volatile or dangerous scene as a method of de-escalation. This is often utilized when dealing with someone having a mental health crisis or when a criminal suspect can be apprehended in another, less risky manner.
But under the proposed policy, Phoenix officers could be disciplined for not opting to deescalate by completely withdrawing and leaving the scene. While this may appear to resolve the immediate issue at hand, the officer says the tactic could place the public “at further risk” once the police presence has left.
One example is an uncooperative trespasser on private property. If the officer withdraws from the scene to avoid escalating into physical contact, the property owner would be left to protect the property and the residents’ safety.
Or officers will be called back to the scene to deal with a now more dangerous set of circumstances.
And then there are those high-risk arrests where a suspect could have a weapon or has shown a propensity for physical violence. It is common practice to point a gun at such suspects to protect the safety of officers and the public.
Sullivan’s proposal, however, would now add a Use of Force demarcation on an officer’s record for such conduct. This means, according to another Phoenix officer, that an officer involved in a few hundred arrests over several years in which their gun was drawn could be alleged to have poor de-escalation skills because the majority of their arrests involved “force” even if no physical contact was involved.
Another activity which could result in a Use of Force report against an officer under Sullivan’s proposal involves Phoenix PD’s highly touted utilization of a Less-Lethal Launcher that fires a 40mm rubber projectile as well as a Pepperball Launcher, both of which can temporarily incapacitate a suspect.
Public records show these proven best-practice tools have been successful by officers to reduce more dangerous encounters. Yet under Sullivan’s proposed policy changes, the use of such tools could easily end up being considered “deadly force” in many instances.
Attorney Steve Serbalik explains his concerns with Chief Sullivan’s proposed Use of Force policy:
Other agencies which support the current objectively reasonable threshold for the use of force include Association of State Criminal Investigative Agencies. Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, Federal Law Enforcement Officer Association, Fraternal Order of Police, Hispanic American Police Command Officer Association, International Association of Directors of Law Enforcement, National Association of Police Organizations, National Association of Women Law Enforcement Executives, National Organization Black Law Enforcement Executives, and National Tactical Officer Association.
Terri Jo Neff is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or send her news tips here.
As the city of Phoenix prepares to navigate through a U.S. Department of Justice civil rights investigation, there is a new chief at the helm.
Michael G. Sullivan was sworn-in last Friday as Interim Chief, several weeks after he officially began working for the city under a one year contract with a base pay of $232,000. His swearing-in ceremony came just days after the Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training (AZPOST) board approved Sullivan’s application for a restricted certification
The restriction bars Sullivan from being assigned “any duty likely to result in the need to apply physical force.” His contract signed in September gives Sullivan six months to pass all AZPOST training requirements and “satisfactorily perform the practical demonstrations of proficiency in physical conditioning, vehicle operations, pursuit operations, and firearms, including firearms qualifications as required by AZPOST.”
In the meantime, city officials are planning to conduct a nationwide search for a permanent police chief, although no promises have been made to Sullivan if he wishes to stay longer.
Sullivan was hired by Phoenix PD from Baltimore PD where he has spent the last few years helping that agency deal with the fallout of a US DOJ investigation. He previously spent 20 years with Louisville PD in Kentucky.
In public comments, Sullivan has acknowledged there are many challenges facing the department beyond the US DOJ investigation. He has mentioned the agency’s understaffing problem, its lack of accountability and transparency to the community, and dwindling department morale as just some of the issues he needs to tackle while also trying to appease investigators with the US DOJ’s Civil Rights Division.
In August 2021, the US DOJ announced it was undertaking a “comprehensive review” of Phoenix PD’s policies, training, supervision, and force investigations. Also under scrutiny will be the department’s “systems of accountability, including misconduct complaint intake, investigation, review, disposition, and discipline.”
The investigation is authorized under the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, which prohibits state and local governments from engaging in “a pattern or practice of conduct” by law enforcement officers that is in violation of federal law or which deprives individuals of the constitutional rights. The Act allows the U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland to seek a number of remedies through civil litigation.
Two years ago, Phoenix Police Officer Jackie Ravelo gave one of her kidneys to her friend’s ten-year-old daughter, Lily Rios — a lifesaving measure Ravelo says she didn’t think twice about. Ravelo and Rios were only able to meet recently because of COVID-19.
“As a parent, you know, I have three daughters. And you kind of put their face to that. I can’t imagine the pain that Becky felt, and you know wanting to make things better or do something that can help her — and not being able to, that’s heartbreaking for me,” said Ravelo. “I can speak for all officers that you want to help everybody, you want to solve problems and sometimes you can’t, so to me it was simple — how could I not do this?”
Rios suffered from focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS), sometimes called “focal glomerular sclerosis” or “focal nodular glomerulosclerosis,” in which scar tissue develops on the parts of kidneys that filter waste from the blood. FSGS may be caused by a variety of conditions and can lead to kidney failure; according to Kopp, her daughter’s case was aggressive and unresponsive to treatments.
Rios and Ravelo spent part of the day together, with Ravelo seating Rios inside her cop car and talking to her about her life since the surgery. Rios has been able to live a normal life since receiving Ravelo’s kidney.
“Being next to someone that almost saved my life, I start to think about how thankful I am,” said Rios.
Ravelo knew of the girl’s mom, Becky Kopp, through a recreational softball league. Kopp expressed gratitude for Ravelo’s selflessness.
“To Jackie: the gift that you gave my daughter is — I can’t express how meaningful it is, and how amazing it is, and how priceless it is. As a mother to a mother, you saved my baby,” said Kopp.
Ravelo had seen Kopp’s Facebook post after a kidney intended for her daughter was no longer a viable option. She explained that she posted to explain what was happening — it wasn’t meant to be a call to action. However, that’s how Ravelo took it.
“At exactly midnight last night, I got the call that a kidney was available for Lily. We rushed to PCH and were directly admitted. Her labs were drawn and she went to sleep. I didn’t. I couldn’t. The doctors just came in to let us know that the kidney looked great last night but has deteriorated and is no longer viable. We are being discharged. Yes, this sucks. Yes, it’s devastating to be so close yet so far away. But we are going to focus on the positives from the last 11 hours… we now know the process. I know what to do and what to expect the next time I get the call. Lily is at the top of the list. The fact that she has only been on the list for 13 days and is already getting called means we are very close. Lily is strong and healthy and ready for surgery. We will remain positive and hope for the next one. Please say a prayer for the donor. We may have lost the opportunity at this kidney but that person lost their life.”
Kopp posted an update on her daughter’s “kidneyversary.” According to Kopp, her daughter has been doing well ever since.
Phoenix Police Department (PPD) leadership informed city council that they may have to stop responding to certain 911 calls due to their shortage of police officers. PPD Chief Jeri Williams shared with the Public Safety and Justice Subcommittee at the start of this month that they haven’t made such a policy official yet, but may have to in order to offset the workload created by 370 vacancies.
They had 27 recruits going through academy and 31 officers-in-training. PPD has 2,755 total officers. The fifth-largest city in the nation had over 1.6 million people according to the 2020 census — approximately 17 officers per 10,000 residents.
The proposal was based on a study from Arizona State University (ASU). The university identified eleven call types: intrusion alarms, assisting fire departments with unruly patients, drug overdoses, loose animals, public marijuana smoking, civil matter stand-bys, abandoned vehicles, found property, minor vehicle crashes without injuries, illegal parking, and noise complaints. Williams suggested that the last six call types could be mitigated by civilian members or assistants and not PPD, and that public marijuna smoking calls were nullified with the legalization of marijuana.
Williams suggested that eliminating police response to intrusion or false alarms, fire department assistance and/or check welfare calls, drug overdoses, and loose animals wouldn’t be good for public safety. PPD recorded 60,000 welfare calls and 552 drug overdose calls.
Civil matter stand-by calls have to do with incidents like exchanges of children, roommate relationships, and merchant or customer relations. Williams reported that PPD received about 14,000 of civil matter stand-by calls annually, 10,000 abandoned vehicle calls, 3,200 found property calls, 26,000 minor vehicle accidents without injury calls, 10,000 minor vehicle hit-and-run, 6,200 illegal parking calls, and 14,000 noise complaint calls.
Overall, Williams reported that PPD received 2 million calls in 2020 with 660,000 of those dispatched, and 1.8 million calls in 2021 with about 614,000 of those dispatched.
“This is just preliminary information that we’re going through. We didn’t want you all or members of the public to be surprised by the types of calls we’re looking at. We’ve made no decisions on these whatsoever, we’re really just trying to introduce the topic and idea,” explained Williams.
The second adjustment was PPD’s new “deferred patrol response” program where officers come into the station and work overtime by assisting with calls, taking reports, and handling paperwork.
The third adjustment was changes to PPD’s dispatch protocol concerned changes to dispatch protocols.
In all, Williams touched on six different improvement efforts: in addition to call type reduction, deferred patrol response, and dispatch protocol changes, PPD has undertaken programs implementing civilianization, body worn cameras for all officers, and specialty back to patrol. PPD also introduced efforts to increase officer retention and morale, such as raises.