In some of her first public comments in recent months, Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams said a New York Times article and headline “misrepresents” what she and other leaders believe about this year’s spike in police shootings, the Arizona Republic reports. The article, published Monday, focused on a handful of recent and high-profile cases involving the police department’s use of force. While the report was factually correct, Williams and other police officials were incensed at the Times’ headline: “How Phoenix Explains a Rise in Police Violence: It’s the Civilians’ Fault.” In a social media message, Williams said, “the headline implies that we have already made up our minds as to an explanation for the rise in violent encounters.” She added, “We cannot explain the rise, which is exactly why we have turned to experts and scholars to help us get an understanding of the sociological component to these incidents.”
Williams said the Times headline “misrepresents that we are blaming civilians.” The Republic previously reported that Phoenix police officers have shot at people 41 times so far this year, more than police in similarly sized and even significantly larger cities. There were 21 Phoenix police shootings in 2017, 25 in 2016 and 17 in 2015. Phoenix surpassed its previous record of 31 shootings, set in 2013, in July. The shootings led officials to commission a $149,000 review of police-shooting data. The National Police Foundation is reviewing shooting data spanning a decade. Williams said she hoped findings from the report would be released soon, although they are not likely until next year. Some 35 of the department’s 41 shootings involved individuals who had a real or replica gun. Police have cited an increase in assaults on police officers as a cause for the spike in shootings, saying such incidents have climbed 45 percent.