Phoenix Interviews Candidates For Director For Office Of Accountability And Transparency

The city of Phoenix hosted a virtual forum Thursday evening to review three finalists applying to lead the new Accountability and Transparency Office, which was created in response to public demand for greater oversight of wrongdoing at within the Phoenix Police Department.

Moderator Vielka Atherton, communications manager for the City of Phoenix’s human resources, said the event was part of the latest step in a nationwide search.

“It gives members of our community the opportunity to hear from our potential new director,” she said. The City of Phoenix said it received 89 applications for the director position and 12 people were interviewed for the post.

The OAT was recently formed to monitor the Phoenix Police Department and investigate possible misconduct by its sworn personnel. It was approved by a restricted city council vote in May.

The OAT can make recommendations to the police chief for possible disciplinary action as well as make proposals for policy and training matters.

Atherton told the audience that the director will be responsible for the development and implementation of the office and its policies, procedures and programs. “This will include hiring and building a team of professionals to carry out the responsibilities of the office as defined in the city ordinance,” she said.

The city received more than 2,000 responses to a community survey, which were used to form the questions for candidates at the forum on Thursday.

The candidates

Andrew Myerberg is the director of the Seattle Office of Police Accountability, a job that he says has changed his perspective on policing. He’s been in the role for four and a half years. Myerberg described the post as the Seattle Police Department of Internal Affairs. Before taking up his current post, he was Deputy Prosecutor. Myerberg said he was passionate about investigating police misconduct. “I love the job and am incredibly excited to be starting something in Phoenix.”

André Myerberg

Myerberg said his vision for the office is “to create an office that fosters a culture of accountability. . . and to build trust between the community and the police – especially our most disenfranchised communities. “

He said he would like to meet with all stakeholders, including “the people who fought so hard for this office” as well as the police unions.

“I want things to be up and running in six months,” Myerberg said. “When I look at the ordinance, I see audits, I see a review of policy and research, I see investigations, and I see community engagement. “

Myerberg acknowledged that not being from Phoenix, he would like to bring in people to help guide the communications work.

Erin Ellison is the senior director of the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Arizona State University, where she has worked for the past seven years. She told the forum that she had nearly 20 years of experience in conducting workplace investigations, “including investigations involving police officers.” She said the complaints concerned issues of discrimination, harassment, sexual harassment, sexual assault, inappropriate relationships and complicit prejudice.

Erin Ellison

Ellison has also served in the Reserve Component of the US Army JAG Corps for the past 10 years. “I oversee administrative investigations as legal counsel or to perform legal reviews of completed investigations,” she said.

In response to a question about why she would be the ideal candidate, Ellison said it would be because she is able to handle heavy and complex workloads and has a good sense of objectivity and equity.

She said the OAT director position would be best served by someone like her, who has the ability to listen intently.

“By making intentional efforts and using emotional intelligence to really hear from all of the stakeholders, to see through their lens and really understand their point of view in order to achieve the best results,” said Ellison. “Most of the time, people just want a platform to be heard.”

Roger Smith has worked as an Administrator of the City of Cleveland’s Office of Professional Standards since 2018, investigating Cleveland Police misconduct. He was a prosecutor in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office where he said he had numerous encounters with police oversight, including the investigation into the shooting of Amadou Diallo.

Roger smith

Smith worked as a general counsel, leading disciplinary cases against correctional officers who were involved in misconduct. He has also worked for the New York City Civil Complaints Board, training investigators in search and seizure law, report writing and interview techniques.

Smith said that being the director of the Office of Accountability and Transparency in Phoenix would be “the natural culmination of all my professional experience in this area.”

“I was introduced to this issue of civilian oversight as a teenager,” he said, “when I started being arrested several times in northern New Jersey”.

Smith said frequent contact with the police as a young man would help him build relationships with members of the Phoenix community who feel they too are being unfairly targeted for their skin color.

“Bringing this to the community is a lot like talking to people who experienced this problem in a similar way to how I experienced it as a teenager. And so, I will be able to go into the community, as a member of a team, and build a team capable of answering these questions and meeting the needs of the community for better information and stronger representation.

Smith said that in addition to his work experience and training, he also brings an analytical mind.

“In my spare time I play chess a lot,” he said. “A game of chess and a court case are two fundamentally different things, but I think there is an element of careful consideration going into both.”

Next steps

The three finalists will now participate in an interview with the leaders of the city of Phoenix before a final decision is made.

Phoenix is ​​suing the state over a bill that the city says will overturn plans for independent civilian oversight of its police department, but the court has yet to rule on the case. If successful, the lawsuit would prevent the bill from coming into force.

“The City of Phoenix is ​​filing this lawsuit to ensure the state legislature upholds our Arizona Constitution. This year’s budget illegally limits the ability of cities to serve our communities and undermines the legislative process, ”said Mayor Kate Gallego.

The bill was adopted at the end of June at the end of the legislative session and was part of the package of bills that constitute the state budget. It stipulates that entities that investigate or recommend disciplinary action for misconduct by law enforcement officials must be composed of law enforcement officials from the same department being investigated.

“Whatever you think of the merits of the substantive elements of the bill that the city is challenging, Arizonans of all stripes should agree, and do, that the legislature should follow the Constitution like everyone else,” Jean said. -Jacques Cabou of Perkins Coie LLP, who filed the complaint on behalf of the City. “The City’s lawsuit asks the court to enforce these rules in the Constitution.”

In a recent sweeping ruling, an Arizona judge ruled that the budget bill’s provisions were unconstitutional.

The case is expected to go to the Arizona Supreme Court. Attorney General Mark Brnovich has said he will defend the state’s position.

Do you have a tip? Contact the reporter at [email protected] or 812-243-5582. Follow him on twitter @JimmyJenkins.

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