Retired AF cop: Get serious about police/community trust building - Ahwatukee Foothills News: News

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Retired AF cop: Get serious about police/community trust building

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Posted: Saturday, December 18, 2010 11:00 am

A set of recommendations designed to improve the relationship between the Phoenix Police Department and the public has some good points, but many of the proposals read like a rehash of old ideas never seriously implemented, says Chris Gentis, a former Phoenix police lieutenant and Ahwatukee Foothills resident.

"All these things have been done before," Gentis said of the recommendations, which are slated for City Council consideration on Jan. 11. "It's just been forgotten about because it's not a department priority or it hasn't filtered down from the top."

The list includes such things as requiring officers to undergo a urine analysis test after any officer-involved shooting, educating officers that videotaping of their actions in public is lawful and that their behavior at any time might be videotaped by an onlooker, sponsoring an interfaith "Annual Public Safety Day" event and emphasizing the recruitment of minority officers to ensure the department reflects the communities they serve.

The Community Engagement and Outreach Task Force, created by Phoenix officials in the spring, distilled the results from public input taken at a series of community meetings across the city in September. Gentis, who now serves as a member of the Ahwatukee Foothills Village Planning Committee and the Ahwatukee Board of Management, was among the local residents who attended a community meeting on police interaction with the public at the Pecos Community Center in Ahwatukee Foothills.

The purpose was to develop an action plan to ensure that police treat all people with respect, dignity and professionalism. Gentis said some of the suggestions, such as mandating that officers provide a professional card with their name, badge number and supervisor's contact information whenever they interact with the public, are a step in the right direction.

"It's a good start," he said. "We should treat everyone with respect at all times and we go out and catch bad guys."

Other recommendations include:

• Encouraging community leaders, faith-based organizations and non-profits to share community concerns with police on a regular basis.

• Developing a regular "State of the Police Department" report.

• Allowing residents who file a complaint about an officer to review the officers' comments and submit additional information to the Professional Standards Bureau once the investigation has begun, as well as providing a process where complainants have the same level of representation during the complaint process as officers.

• Training officers to be more culturally competent regarding differences of race, color, national origin, sexual-orientation and disability.

• Encouraging officers to exit their vehicles daily to engage individuals and business owners.

• And conducting a pilot program to determine the effectiveness of installing dash cams in patrol cars.

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