Phoenix launches independent investigation of police response to Trump rally protesters

Second Street gets crowded as more counterprotestors arrive at the Trump rally in front of the Phoenix Convention Center. (Photo by Andrea Jaramillo Valencia/Cronkite News)

PHOENIX – The city is hiring an outside firm to conduct an independent review of the controversial police response to protesters after last week’s presidential rally.

“With the high profile nature of the events and community concerns and support expressed, it is important to use outside expertise to add a layer of objective review in this situation,” Phoenix City Manager Ed Zuercher wrote in a statement to Police Chief Jeri Williams.

Zuercher said OIR Group, Inc. “specializes in independent reviews of critical incidents and police tactics in a variety of police community interactions.”  

Williams had said the police would conduct an internal review about the police response after the rally, which ended in law enforcement using tear gas and other crowd-disbursement tactics on Trump protesters.

Some people took to social media to claim police brutality.

Zuercher said the outside review would supplement the police internal review.

“Let me be clear, this (external) review does not diminish the professionalism of our Phoenix police officers,” he said. “In fact, it will serve to strengthen the Phoenix Police Department and to transparently educate the community about the complexities of policing in a large city.”

Phoenix police had initially said only pepper balls had been fired into the crowd of protesters. The Arizona Republic  said police confirmed Monday that officers fired “foam batons” – plastic bullets capped or filled with foam – to disperse protesters who were throwing bottles, rocks and gas canisters at the officers.

The confrontation came after President Donald Trump talked for more than an hour to supporters at the Phoenix Convention Center. Supporters had lined up for hours before the evening rally and, at times, clashed verbally but peacefully with protesters.

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton said in a statement Monday an independent review “is the most objective and transparent way we can move forward.”  He praised Phoenix police “as one of the finest police departments in the country.”

“I am grateful, given the tensions and emotions surrounding the Trump rally,” Stanton said. “There were no serious injuries and only a handful of arrests. I’m disappointed that a few people chose to disrupt an otherwise peaceful event. There is no circumstance where that kind of behavior is appropriate.”
Williams and Stanton are scheduled to meet with leaders of several rally protest groups on Sept. 5 to “hear their perspectives and concerns” directly, Stanton said.