Trump Protest Leads Phoenix Police To Consider New Tools

By Christina Estes
Published: Monday, October 29, 2018 - 5:05am
Updated: Monday, October 29, 2018 - 9:20am

Police and protesters
Casey Kuhn/KJZZ
Police and protesters outside the Phoenix Convention Center in 2017.

In hopes of avoiding a repeat of last year’s presidential visit that turned violent, the Phoenix Police Department want to buy two long-range acoustic devices. But the city’s public safety subcommittee says the department must first provide detailed guidelines.

When Phoenix police deployed pepper spray and non-lethal projectiles against a crowd outside a rally for President Trump, many people complained they had no warning. And an internal police investigation found officers could have better communicated. Now, Chief Jeri Williams thinks two devices that can be mounted on trailer hitches will help.

“The alert tones are going to be limited to two to five seconds, our decibel levels are at 113 decibels,” she told the subcommittee earlier this month.

The 113 decibels is about as loud as a chainsaw.

“So we’ve really looked very carefully at some of the lessons that we’ve seen across the country in order to better communicate with our community members which we weren’t capable of doing or able to do the night of the protests,” Williams said.

Some community members expressed concern the devices could be used as weapons, but Williams said they are for communication and under no circumstances would the department take steps to weaponize the devices.

“There will be 15, maybe 18 people on the department who are tactically trained to follow this policy, tactically trained to utilize the system and would use it in a way that is transparent and accountable for our police department,” she said.

“This is something very important,” said Michael Nowakowski, subcommittee chair. “It was something that we heard out from the community that the incident with the president, that they were not warned so this is a tool to actually be used to warn individuals before the police actually go to the next level.”

The subcommittee directed the department to clarify its policy language before asking the full council to approve the nearly $100,000 purchase.

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