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'Policy Is The Key Lever' — Legislative Democrat Calling For Colleagues To Take Up Police Reforms

By Mark Brodie
Published: Friday, September 25, 2020 - 11:50am
Updated: Friday, September 25, 2020 - 12:06pm

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MARK BRODIE: Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel this week declined to press criminal charges against the DPS trooper who shot and killed Dion Johnson on Memorial Day. At the same time, she's calling on state lawmakers to equip all DPS officers with body-worn cameras. The trooper in the Johnson case was not wearing one. In his budget proposal this past year, Gov. Ducey included money to buy more than 1,200 body cameras for the agency. But lawmakers ultimately approved a so-called "skinny budget" in response to the pandemic, and that request was not included. A spokesman for the governor says in an email that the issue is still a priority and quote, "something we're going to be working to get into the budget moving forward," end quote. My next guest says that would be a good change but not the only one that's needed. In response to the decision not to charge the officer in the Dion Johnson case, State Rep. Reginald Bolding said, quote, "We must continue to seek legislative changes to ensure this type of violence is not allowed to continue unchecked." I spoke with the Laveen Democrat earlier and asked what kinds of legislative changes he thinks are needed.

AZ Democrats
Reginald Bolding in 2019.

REGINALD BOLDING: You know, we've talked about making sure that we're going to pass a criminal justice reform or police reform every single legislative cycle, only to actually be met with a chairman who had alternative motives with regards to moving legislation forward. But there's so many low-hanging pieces of fruit — body cameras and appropriation for that is something that we can definitely go ahead and move forward on. With regards to external investigations, that's something that we should be able to move forward and making sure, making sure that we have a training for our officers — non-biased training, implicit bias training — training that's going to actually provide an opportunity for our law enforcement officers in our community to genuinely build a relationship. That should be low-hanging fruit.

BRODIE: So do you think that body cameras is something that, let's say come January might actually get done? That all DPS officers in the field will have them?

BOLDING: You know, the the way we move forward to have substantive reform is I truly believe we have to change the actors who are actually making the decision. And I don't say this to be partisan. The reality is every single session, every single cycle, you have reforms that are put in place that are what the public is asking for, that are not heavy-handed, but there is this fear or there is just this ideology that we can't move forward police reform because that somehow would make lawmakers believe that the people in the public wouldn't support them. We just know that not to be the truth. You know, especially when you think about things like officer databases to make sure that any officer who has a disciplinary record, that is actually stored and it's put in a database so other hiring agencies can see it. That would be a no-brainer.

BRODIE: You talked about a different type of training for police officers. I'm curious what isn't being taught now that you would like to be part of that training?

BOLDING: You know, the biggest issue right now is that we now have so much policy is taken place department by department. So some agencies that are very forward-moving, that actually want to see change, they're implementing requirements for implicit bias training and they're implementing requirements for culture sensitivity training. But that's not all police agencies. And the issue is, if you live in Maricopa County, you can literally drive 25 minutes in any direction and enter into another municipality where those officers may not have the same type of training. So for police reform, this is something that has to be mandated at a state level, because the stakes are too high to leave it to individual departments.

BRODIE: Have you had a chance to speak with anybody from [Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board] AZPOST about the possibility of adding some of those items?

BOLDING: You know, AZPOST has been an agency that we've had stakeholder meetings with. And what we hear is an acceptance to reform and acceptance to change. But when it, when the rubber meets the road, when you actually need to put pen to paper, when you actually need to cast the vote, it doesn't happen. So the only way that this happens is unless it's going to have to be some type of mandate that will have to come from the legislative body.

BRODIE: When you talk about passing bills and new policies to try to improve the situation and try to reduce or ultimately eliminate the number of people of color who are killed at the hands of police officers, is that something that you think policy can ultimately change? Is there something bigger that needs to happen here?

BOLDING: I truly believe policy is the key lever. Right now, what we know is that there are people who have mindsets toward individuals of color, and that may be a bias because of what's seen on television, what you see on the news. So people have this bias. And we know sometimes that mindset leads into actions. But by changing policy, what we can do is then change actions. And if we can change actions, we can change mindsets. So I truly believe — even when you look back at civil rights movement, what you had was laws in place that would no longer allow for folks of color to be beaten and brutalized. And that began to change individuals' behavior, which ultimately changed some mindsets. And I believe that's the lever that we have to pull, because while we can have diversity training and we can talk more about the acceptance of where we should be, without key measurable steps where people can be held liable if they don't do it, we're gonna find ourselves in the position that we've been in for several years.

BRODIE: Well, it seems like one of those might be a more short-term kind of thing that you can do, whereas the other is maybe a longer term goal where it would take a little time, maybe even a generation or two, to make those changes.

BOLDING: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, there's not one legislative session that will solve police reform in this state. There's not a term for a lawmaker that will solve police reform in this state. But there are substantive policies that we can put in place today that will get us to a place where we can start to see change down the line. And we just haven't had an opportunity to get started. And I truly believe if we allow this moment to pass us without having some change, that will be the biggest mistake, looking back on history that that we will be judged by. And we have the ability to do this. This is not about being anti-cop to ask for accountability. And I truly believe if we can talk about what accountability should look like, what a world, what a state of with policing and community should look like, we can get to a place of commonality.

BRODIE: All right, that is State Rep. Reginald Bolding, a Democrat from Laveen. Rep. Bolding, thanks for your time. I appreciate it.

BOLDING: Thank you.

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