Law and order highlights March's Representative Town Hall

Date Modified: Tue, 04/04/2017 - 10:11am

Phoenix Police Chief Jeri WilliamsLaw and order and the future of the Phoenix Police Department were a few of the topics discussed at the Representative Town Hall held on Friday. Guest speakers Jeri Williams, Phoenix Chief of Police, and Bob Terrio, Community Relations Officer for the North Valley Posse, spoke to the more than 50 audience members.

Williams, who spent 22 years with the Phoenix Police Department before becoming Chief of Police in Oxnard, California, was candid in her assessment of the department upon her return. She outlined five focus areas going forward:

  • Crime suppression and prevention;
  • Community engagement and outreach;
  • Recruiting, training and hiring (there had been a six-year freeze prior);
  • Employee well-being; and
  • Increasing police legitimacy.

Policies and tactics are being implemented to help in these highlighted areas. One example of community engagement is the reinstatement of the Police Activities Leagues(PALs), made possible due to a grant. This program allows officers to engage with at-risk youth at the school level, and involves after-school programs or just playing sports with them.

Williams spoke of the legacy she ultimately wants to leave once her time in office is done. Developing a strong relationship between the department and communities will play a key role in building that legacy.

“When you think of community,” Williams said, “I want people to think of community and the police department being intertwined.”

According to Williams, there are about 400 openings within the department they are planning to fill by the end of 2018 and early 2019. One important aspect of this process is not compromising the high standards the department looks for in a recruit in order to fill the position.

Williams also had positive reviews for how different departments, Phoenix PD and Maricopa County Sheriff’s Department (MCSO) for example, have worked well together and built strong relationships. Williams' view is that the “bad guys” don’t care what uniform authority figures wear, or where their jurisdiction is, so inter-departmental cooperation is vital.

Williams ended her presentation with the message that the department needs to empower residents to help keep neighborhoods safe and work together to make that goal a reality.

Bob Terrio spoke about the function, and some challenges, the Posse face currently and moving forward. Terrio, who started in law enforcement at the age of 17, gave a brief overview of the Posse.

At its peak, the Posse included 2,500 members; currently that number hovers around 700. The main patrol areas include Anthem, New River and parts of Tramonto. According to Terrio, the Posse is made up of men and women volunteers who are driven to serve their community. They undergo the same training as MCSO deputies, and takes about six months to complete.

Due to the volunteer nature of the Posse, they receive no local or state funding. Their primary income stream is fundraisers, which help pay for new equipment. They are currently in the middle of a fundraising drive now to help pay for new radios, the same radios used by MCSO, which is important given the cooperative nature between the units. Learn more about the impact the Posse has in our community.

The next Representative Town Hall will take place April 14 at the Civic Building. Speakers will include Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone and District 1 State Representative Noel Campbell. The Town Hall begins at 9 a.m. and is open to all residents.

Visit the calendar for a list of future Town Halls and the speaker list.