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  • Writer's pictureArizona House Democrats

Legislative Democrats call for special session for police reform

Governor Ducey,

Over the last week we have seen pain, frustration and anguish centered around decades of systemic and deliberate mistreatment of African Americans boil over in Arizona and throughout our country. These demonstrations are a nationwide show of solidarity and demand for change over the murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police, unanswered questions surrounding the shooting death of Dion Johnson by an Arizona Department of Public Safety trooper, and to bring an end to racism and police brutality in our communities.

Our own state has three cities -- Phoenix, Tucson and Mesa -- in the top major cities with police killings. The disparate treatment of people of color by law enforcement is a serious issue that will require hard work by all of us to overcome. We cannot ignore that it is a fact that the rate at which African Americans are killed by police is more than twice as high as the rate for white Americans.

As elected leaders with the ability and power to elicit change, we must commit ourselves to do better, to listen and learn from those closest to this pain and turn that into action. Therefore, the Senate and House Democrats respectfully, but urgently request that, in addition to an anticipated special session to further contend with the statewide COVID-19 emergency, that you also call us into a special session to address our state's other most pressing emergency to enact genuine police reform. Many cities are making progress by instituting civilian review boards for police misconduct, but we need to do more.

The time to show leadership is now, the time to act is now. We hope you will join our efforts to create real change for our communities. To that point, we call for legislative action that includes input from community groups which reflect the diversity of our state, leaders in the law enforcement community, tribal leaders and others to begin the conversation with the following transparency, accountability and training policy ideas that our caucus members have proposed for many years.

Body cameras on all law enforcement officers

Requirements for every peace officer to wear a body camera that records audio and video while the officer is engaged in official duties, and for those records to be maintained for a specific amount of time. Body cameras provide an objective alternative viewpoint for the protection and safety of the public and officers.

Investigations of deadly use of force

Require the investigation of a law enforcement officer’s use of deadly force to be conducted by a different jurisdiction from where the officer is employed. Direct the outside investigator to provide

the report to the county attorney for the county in which the death occurred. Nationally, police officers are convicted of charged crimes at half the rate of civilians charged with crimes, and only one officer was prosecuted in Maricopa county in a span of seven years. This must change.

Police officer database

Create a statewide database, to be maintained by AZ POST with input from the AG, to include all law enforcement officers in the state. Require the database to include the discipline records of all officers and mandate that law enforcement agencies run a database search before they hire any officer. So-called "bad apple" officers are currently allowed to jump from agency to agency.

AZ POST training

Add new training requirements for AZ POST certification to include cultural sensitivity and de-escalation classes. With officer-involved shootings and police brutality on the rise, we clearly must improve police training.

Limit qualified immunity

Allows a peace officer to be sued for simple negligence for actions or omissions carried out while on duty. Removes the justification defense for an officer who is found to have acted unlawfully. Right now, taxpayers foot the bill for settlements when officers are negligent.

Thank you for your immediate attention to this vital matter.

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