Response from Councilwoman Nikki Lee Regarding Police, Funding and a Call to Action

 

We have received hundreds of emails over the last few days from people throughout the United States expressing their concerns regarding Tucson Police Department (TPD) funding and policies. Some want to defund the police department while others express support and ask that public safety be funded per the City Charter.  Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to contact me and use your voice during this time.  I appreciate your advocacy and share your passion around ending police brutality nationwide.  

TPD Funding & Policies 

In my role as a Tucson City Councilwoman, I focus on ensuring that TPD's policies, training, supervision, community oversight, accountability and transparency are in place to address the needs of our entire community.  TPD has put in place recommendations laid out by President Obama's Task Force on 21st Century Policing.  TPD is one of just two police departments in the largest 100 cities in the United States to have put in place all eight of the "8 Can't Wait" policies promoted by Campaign Zero's Use of Force Projects.  I encourage you to read Chief Magnus' guest column in the Arizona Daily Star that explains what we have done to ensure TPD is a progressive police department, engaged in community policing at www.tucsonaz.gov/police.  We must protect our community as well as the individuals putting their lives on the line every day to protect the residents of the City of Tucson.

 

                                                                                      Reference: https://8cantwait.org/

Ordinance No. 11746

On March 10, 2020, Chief Magnus contacted me about an ongoing issue regarding a particular practice of persons who actively interfere with police activities, often by confronting police officers while carrying out their duties, interfering with their investigations, filming themselves, and then posting those videos online to make money based on the number of views they get. For context, you may view one of the explicit encounters our Tucson officers had here. View at your own discretion:  https://youtu.be/CJq0W7gnFzM

Chief Magnus and our Tucson city attorneys reviewed several ordinances from other jurisdictions throughout Arizona to help draft an ordinance to address this specific type of encounter, while ensuring First Amendment rights were not infringed upon. 

Tucson Ordinance No. 11746 was drafted and came before the Mayor & Council on April 21, 2020.  The Ordinance prohibits a person from entering a crime scene or investigation scene without permission of an officer; and prohibits a person from knowingly obstructing or hindering a police officer or Community Service Officer who is exercising his or her official duties.

The Ordinance also expressly codifies a person’s right to record police activities that take place in public. Let me repeat that – it doesn’t just recognize that right, it puts it into our Code.  Ensuring someone's right to film police activities is very important to me, both personally and professionally, and I expressed that during the meeting.   

The Ordinance expressly states that: 

  1. the public has a clear right to free speech and to record police activities that take place in public; and

  2. the acts of recording police activity or engaging in constitutionally protected speech alone shall not be considered prohibited conduct under the ordinance. 

The Mayor and Council engaged in a lengthy discussion of this Ordinance during the April 21, 2020 Mayor and Council meeting. Here’s a link to that discussion – this item comes up at about the 20 minute mark:

https://www.tucsonaz.gov/files/mcc-av/2020-04-21-MC-RS.mp4

As was explained during the discussion, the Ordinance is designed to address a particular practice of persons who actively interfere with police activities, often by confronting police officers carrying out their duties, interfering with their investigations, filming themselves, and then posting it online for profit. As Chief Magnus explained during the discussion, this activity has been ongoing and real, and has happened throughout the city and across the US, endangering the safety of officers and the public.  

On April 21, 2020, the Mayor and Council approved Ordinance No. 11746 with the requirement for continuing review to ensure training was being done and the Ordinance was being used as designed and for the appropriate scenario.

Mayor and Council will be discussing the Ordinance at the June 9, 2020 Study Session under Item #8 - “Discussion of Governor Ducey’s Declaration of Emergency and Curfew Order; Update on Protests and Civil Disturbances Arising after the Death of George Floyd; and Discussion of City Response and Strategies”.  I agree that efforts should also be undertaken to receive more community feedback on the Ordinance, consider additional language, and bring it back to the Mayor and Council for further review.

You can read more about Ordinance No. 11746 on the City of Tucson’s website at: https://www.tucsonaz.gov/info/ordinance-11746-information.  While on that page you can click on comments@tucsonaz.gov, and share your opinion.

 

The Work Is Not Done

Police brutality must end, nationwide.  It must end worldwide.  Previous Tucson Mayors and Tucson City Council Members (some who are still serving) have hired talented people and worked hard to create a progressive and forward-thinking department, but the work is clearly not done.  Until my black husband can walk down any street in America with the same lack of fear of police that I have as a white woman, the work is not done.  As long as black women and men are pulled over for a broken tail light (or any other incident) and they are overcome with fear of an encounter that could potentially end their life, the work is not done.  Where there is no accountability, the work is not done. 

Shortly after the brutal murder of George Floyd, I consulted with several leaders to find out how I could have the most impact on addressing police brutality in my current role.  Chief Magnus sent me materials that I am still reading and processing, and I am committed to constantly educating myself and moving the needle forward in every way possible.       

Slavery and systemic oppression of Black Americans is a horrible part of our collective American story.  We must come together and unite, regardless of our own individual stories, backgrounds, and political affiliations, to rally behind our fellow Americans who are still fighting for justice and equality.  They cannot, and should not, fight this battle alone.

 

Nikki Lee

Tucson City Councilwoman, Ward 4