The Phoenix Police Department Wins 1st in the Worst Category: Why They Deserve Scrutiny

By Tim Peeler

Earlier this month there was a report that placed Phoenix #1 on a list of highest deadly police incident rate among the 10 most populous cities in the nation. Not a list that you want to find your city in the top spot. According to data compiled by the organization Mapping Police Violence since 2013, Phoenix not only has the highest deadly incident rate among the largest cities in America, it held that spot by a wide margin.

According to their statistics, Phoenix’s deadly police incident rate was 75 per one million people. This is almost double the rate of the next highest city on the list, San Antonio, which had a deadly police incident rate of 42 per one million people. The remaining eight cities on the list and their deadly police incident rates (per one million people) are as follows: Houston: 34, Chicago: 33, Dallas: 30, Philadelphia: 27, San Diego: 25, San Jose: 25, and New York City: 10. These statistics highlight Phoenix as an outlier in the worst of ways. So what gives? What’s going on in Phoenix that could explain these numbers?

These statistics and trends have not gone unnoticed. In 2021, the Department of Justice announced that they were launching an investigation into the Phoenix Police Department. Former Governor Ducey (current Governor at the time), criticized the investigation by saying “News flash for the DOJ and Merrick Garland: Mr. Attorney General, instead of attacking Police Chief Jeri Williams and her officers for risking their lives and keeping Arizona streets safe during civil unrest, your time would be better spent protecting the federal courthouses in Portland, Seattle and San Francisco”.

Before I continue, let me say that I support the police and am very grateful for the sacrifices that they make for our communities, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t seek out ways to improve policing or police departments.

Ducey’s comments, minus his political dunk on a few extremely liberal cities, reflects how many Americans feel about investigations of police departments. They seem to view it as an anti-cop political crusade, or a way to villainize police and maybe that is at least partially true in some cities…but can we really honestly say that the Phoenix Police Department doesn’t deserve a more careful examination based on their absurdly high deadly police incident rate, especially compared with other major cities?

I don’t think that Phoenix police officers are going on joy rides shooting people for fun. I think they are being put in awful, dangerous situations, and based on the numbers, it’s likely that they don’t have the proper tools to avoid or de-escalate these types of situations.  I would ask the people who view this still ongoing DOJ investigation as a moral or political attack on police to reframe it, and consider the possibility that findings in this investigation and others like it could improve the day-to-day lives of not only the community, but also for the officers trying to protect it. Regardless of what you believe to be the causes of the issue, we should all be in support of finding solutions that keep our police and our citizens safe.