On Wednesday morning, the Public Safety and Veterans Subcommittee approved Police Chief Jeri Williams' request to have the National Police Foundation conduct a study to find out why the number of officer-involved shootings in the City of Phoenix is so high.
However, it's not a done deal. The city council has to sign off on it.
[SPECIAL SECTION: Officer-involved Shootings in 2018]
Chief Williams said the department has already surpassed last year's officer-involved shooting numbers. She said there have been 25 officer-involved shootings so far this year.
"None of us can answer the question why," said Chief Williams.
"I can say this. I do know why my officers are getting involved in critical incidents is because people are pointing guns at them. People are shooting at them. People have knives or other objects that they are trying to use to hurt and harm officers," she explained.
Williams announced the funding request one day after the latest officer-involved shooting, near Osborn Road and Central Avenue. Cell phone video of the shooting has raised questions about whether the officer shot the suspect in the back, but the chief said video doesn't tell the whole story.
"The evidence does not indicate that he was shot in the back," Williams said Wednesday.
Investigators said the suspect, 34-year-old Alexandre Aldrich, had fought with two officers who were trying to arrest him for trespassing, injuring one officer.
Williams said the case underscored the broader theme of aggression aimed at officers, which she called a "new and unique dynamic."
"None of us know what this new dynamic is which is the big why question," added Williams. "Is it mental health? Is it substance abuse? Is it people who were formerly incarcerated with violent past who want to continue that behavior? I don’t have the answer to that question."
"I don’t think the problem is within the police department," she added.
"Fifteen of the 25 or so (officer-involved shootings this year), prior to police even getting on scene, the suspect has engaged in violent behavior. So the reason for the study and the why for the study and the urgency for the study is I believe out of a responsibility to look into this and begin the process of finding out why, not just for our officers, but for our community," Williams told AZ Family.
Williams explained the six-month study will look at the who, what, where, when and how these incidents happened. They’ll look at what happened before, during and after too along with suspect and officer's behavior.
The study is expected to cost nearly $150,000.
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