Tempe names faith leaders, activists and former elected officials to police task force aimed at reform
By: Paulina Pineda Arizona Republic
Tempe named more than 20 community members to a newly formed Public Safety Advisory Task Force that will review how police operate in the city that has faced protests over policing, including the killing of 14-year-old Antonio Arce by a Tempe officer in 2019.
The task force is expected to address what some residents and activists say is a Police Department culture that has led to disparate treatment of Black and Hispanic residents.
The task force members named on Friday include faith leaders, activists and former elected officials.
Mayor Corey Woods, who handpicked the members, said he chose the participants because of their diverse backgrounds and work in the community. Most are Tempe residents or live in the East Valley, have an interest in discussing the future of public safety or are actively involved in the social justice movement, he said.
“They represent a diverse set of backgrounds that reflects our community and that should make for an interesting and robust conversation,” he said.
They will join Woods, Vice Mayor Randy Keating, council member Lauren Kuby, city staff and police departments officials to examine police policies and procedures over the next two months.
The members are:
- Keisha Acton, an organizer with Black Lives Matter Phoenix Metro.
- Dr. Robbie Adler-Tapia, a Tempe-based mental health expert and owner of Tapia Counseling & Psychological Services.
- Former City Council member Arlene Chin.
- Suzanne Durkin-Bighorn, who works for the Industrial Development Authority of Scottsdale and heads the Philanthropy Outsource, a nonprofit that works on social impact initiatives.
- Melody Elkin, owner and chef at Sweetest Season Artisan Eatery.
- Hassan Ellsaad.
- Former City Council member Pam Goronkin.
- Dr. Raquel Gutierrez, a longtime community activist with a focus on helping historically underrepresented communities build strong leadership.
- Viri Hernandez, executive director of Poder in Action, a local nonprofit focused on police issues.
- Patti Hibbeler, chief executive officer of the Phoenix Indian Center.
- Alana Chavez Langdon, senior manager of external affairs at Nikola Motor Company.
- Shereen Lerner, a faculty member at Mesa Community College and a longtime Tempe resident who has served on boards and commissions.
- Jacob Moore, assistant vice president of tribal relations at Arizona State University.
- Jon Mulford, a Tempe resident.
- Randy Perez, democracy director at Living United for Change in Arizona, or LUCHA, a community group working toward social, racial and economic equity.
- Jacob Raiford, a lead organizer with W.E. Rising Project, which organized dozens of demonstrations against police brutality this summer.
- Sue Ringler, Tempe pastor with Guardian Angels Catholic Community.
- Rabbi Dean Shapiro, senior rabbi at Temple Emanuel of Tempe.
- Michael Soto, executive director of Equality Arizona.
- Roy Tatem Jr., president of the East Valley NAACP.
- Genevieve Vega, business consultant, longtime community organizer and former City Council candidate.
- Janelle Wood, founder of Black Mothers Forum, a group focused on creating equitable education opportunities for Black children in local schools.
Members will get to work immediately
In August, the city said it would create the task force as a growing number of residents sought to reexamine policing following the death of George Floyd while in custody of Minneapolis police on Memorial Day.His death became a rallying cry for Black Lives Matter and social justice protests around the country.
Woods said many people reached out to him with interest in participating on the task force. He put together a list of names and consulted with Keating and Kuby before making the final decision on who would serve.
Members were not required to apply because it’s not a formal city board or commission.
The group will meet for the first time on Oct. 13 and is expected to offer proposals to the City Council early next year.
The Public Safety Advisory Task Force will look at police policies, how technology is used, training and hiring practices. It will examine police data and how the city engages with Black, Indigenous and people of color as well as people experiencing homelessness and mental health issues.
Woods will lead the task force.
The mayor said his plan is for the group to meet through the fall and come back with proposed policy changes and other recommendations to present to the council, city manager and police chief. The chief would be responsible for implementing the changes, Woods said.
Tempe recently named Jeff Glover as interim chief following Sylvia Moir’s resignation last month after leading the department for four years.
City Manager Andrew Ching said at the time of Moir’s resignation that the decision came as the city sought to make long-term changes within the department. He said the renewed focus on systemic racism gave the Police Department an opportunity to move in a different direction with an eye toward social justice.
The task force will meet virtually from 4 to 7 p.m. twice a month from October through December. The meetings will not be open to the public, but a video recording will be available online and broadcast on Tempe 11 following the meeting.
Staff from the city’s Strategic Management and Diversity Office will facilitate the meetings. Members will tackle different subjects at each meeting and there will be time for open conversations and information sharing, Woods said.
Members will meet on Oct. 13, Oct. 28, Nov. 4, Nov. 10, Dec. 2 and Dec. 21. They are expected to complete their strategic plan in January and residents will have a chance to weigh in on the draft plan during public meetings early next year.
Woods said it was important that the group work quickly.
“I think, given the moment, it’s important to act with a sense of urgency,” he said.
Woods said he hopes to implement changes within a few months after the group presents its proposals to the council.
Residents can provide ideas or submit questions to the city by emailing PublicSafetyAdvisoryTaskForce@tempe.gov or by calling Mayoral Aide Brianne Fisher at 480–350–8959.