Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

August 10, 2010


Host: Ted Simons

Phoenix Community Engagement and Outreach Task Force


  • A task force that aims to improve police-community relations is conducting a series of public meetings during the month of August. Task Force Chairman Gerald Richard talks about the effort.
Guests:
  • Gerald Richard
Category: Law

View Transcript
Ted Simons:
Good evening and welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. An altercation last March between a black Phoenix city councilman and a white police officer prompted a significant public outcry, including the formation of a city taskforce to examine how police interact with the community. This month, the Phoenix community engagement and outreach taskforce is holding a series of public hearings around the valley. It's an opportunity for residents to voice their concerns and share their experiences with Phoenix Police. Taskforce member Gerald Richard is chairing the hearings. He's a former Phoenix Police administrator who currently works for the state attorney general as a special policy advisor. Gerald Richard is here tonight with more about the taskforce hearings. Good to see you again.

Gerald Richards:
Good to see you as well.

Ted Simons:
Did the incident with councilman Johnson, was this something that the taskforce came out of or was it in development before that?

Gerald Richards:
That's something that chief Harris mentioned when the -- they had the meeting at the city council, that this was something he wanted to do. I can't really tell you whether or not it came out of it. I know that the incident with regards to councilman Johnson has been resolved and we're moving forward in making sure we listen to the community as far as what they think we can do in order to make the police department a better place.

Ted Simons:
As far as goals are for the hearings and the taskforce, is it that open up the lines of communication?

Gerald Richards:
It's to reopen the lines of communication maybe with some citizens that haven't been involved with our citizen advisory boards or the police academy or block watches and it's an opportunity to step forward and say this is what the police are doing and this is what I see here, some accommodations and as well as concerns.

Ted Simons:
You had the first meeting last night.

Gerald Richards:
It was 2802 east DEVONshire.

Ted Simons:
What did you hear?

Gerald Richards:
We heard there were some citizens that wanted to make sure that the officers took the time in order to introduce themselves, got a chance to know the citizens around there, that there was more involvement between the youth and police that worked on some issues with regard to how we approach our citizens on traffic stops and things along those lines.

Ted Simons:
Was it relatively well attended?

Gerald Richards:
In light of the fact that the commander in that particular area was -- they credited him with a lot as far as the fact he came in and worked quite a bit with the community, and a lot of the -- they self-professed community activists, in order to make sure he addressed those issues in order to improve community-based policing.

Ted Simons:
Youth summits, one was last Saturday and the next will be in Maryville this Saturday. What are you looking forward from them?

Gerald Richards:
A -- a lot haven't had interaction with the police and we want to hear how we can work with them better and what we're finding almost the same thing we heard last night and that is that the police need to learn more about them and they need to learn more about the police. It's a two-way Street on both sides.

Ted Simons:
Is this something in the past -- I know we've heard about taskforces and had public meetings regarding the police in the community in the past. How far -- how much do you get out of these things?

Gerald Richards:
They go a long way, let me tell you, especially the Phoenix police. They've been working with citizen advisory boards for a number of years. And police academies. Maybe refugee communities and Muslim communities and communities that may not have had a positive working relationship with the police force where they grew up where they lived. And now you have 40 individuals, community leaders from all different backgrounds and probably one of the most groups I've seen farce law enforcement and they're investing their time to reach out to the groups that are out there. Not only do you have the six meetings and the couple of meetings we had with the teens, but each of them identified taskforces where we can sit down as colleagues and talk about issues that deal with the police in order to take that information back. This is something I haven't seen anywhere in the nation. Phoenix Police is at the cutting edge in working with the community, listening to the community and developing a plan in order to make that relationship a lot better.

Ted Simons:
It's one thing to communicate and listen, and it's another thing for folks to figure it out and get along on both sides. Are you getting a little bit of this still going on or people starting to figure out how to work together?

Gerald Richards:
People are figuring out how to work together but it's going to take a while. It's not something that happens overnight. We have a lot of new officers on board. Incidents from way back when but you have to remember, the Phoenix Police has pulled off things that other agencies have not been able to do. When 150,000 people marched through the city of Phoenix, there was not one arrest. And this was the way the department was able to work with the different communities and as well as form late a March of that magnitude, the largest in the city of Arizona.

Ted Simons:
Before we go, we mentioned Councilman Johnson, that incident. Talk about the impact on the community.

Gerald Richards:
Since then, there's been concern with regard to how the police may interact as far as in the south Phoenix area, however with a number of things, specifically, assistant chief Jerry Williams has been able to do with the commanders in that area, they've moved forward with working with the police and the training and the reaching out, more so as far as the officers. So I'm extremely happy to see, not only what Jerry is doing with south Phoenix but in north Phoenix and that division.

Ted Simons:
We've got a list. Six general hearings and two youth summits, correct?

Gerald Richards:
That's correct.

Ted Simons:
And the next one being in paradise valley and these are going to be all over the community.

Gerald Richards:
They will be.

Ted Simons:
Ok.

Gerald Richards:
And each of the citizen advisory boards will be meeting, another way in which open lines of communication and dialogue making the police department the best in the world.

Ted Simons:
Thanks for being on the show.

Gerald Richards:
Thanks for having me.

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