Phoenix has hit a new milestone. But it’s not a pretty one. In 2018, the number of police shootings hit 44, more than twice the number in 2017. And both the police and the public have aired their views on exactly why the number is so high and is growing so rapidly.
Phoenix is the country’s fifth most populous city (approximately 1.6 million people), but in terms of police shootings, it has outstripped the four cities with larger populations. New York City, for example, has over 8.6 million people – over 5 times the number of people – yet the Big Apple had only 13 police shootings as of November of last year. As of mid-December, Los Angeles and Chicago, which round out the top 5, each had 31.
Why do Phoenix cops shoot so many people?
There’s apparently no argument with the fact that the number of Phoenix cop shootings are completely out of line with the population, as compared with other large cities. The argument appears to center on the explanation for this depressing fact.
On the one hand, we have the police department itself. The cause, according to the police spokespersons, is the result of Phoenix just being a violent city. And they blame the violence on mental illness, drugs and time spent in prison. We have little doubt that all these factors play a role in violence. But this argument does not even begin to address the issue of why things are so much worse – in terms of police violence – in Phoenix, as compared to other big cities.
Activists, on the other hand, say the cops in Phoenix are “trigger-happy.” And while we assume there are some officers who adhere to the notion that they should shoot first and ask questions later, the question remains, why does Phoenix stand out among other cities.
We’re not in a position to provide a definitive answer on these questions, although we can say the following:
• Prison reform in Arizona is long overdue, and both mandatory sentencing and prison conditions contribute to the number of inmates and the length of incarceration.
• If incarceration is a contributing factor to being shot at by the police, maybe we should be taking a look at the prison system, and issues such as mandatory sentencing.
• Finally, if mental illness and drugs play a significant role in the shootings, wouldn’t it seem appropriate to opt for treatment rather than prison in many cases?
Whatever you might conclude on the issue, it is apparent that there is a problem in Phoenix, and that problem needs to be addressed.
The Feldman Law Firm PLLC
1 E. Washington St #2240
Phoenix, AZ 85004