Running to become the next Maricopa County Attorney, Will Knight is campaigning in part on the need for law enforcement reform.
This issue has become vital in the last month with the police murders of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Dion Johnson, and Rayshard Brooks.
Democrats and Republicans have composed plans to address this important issue. Some of the ideas from both sides are complementary. There are also vast differences that need to be resolved.
Mr. Knight expressed his views on the law enforcement ideas and proposals that have emerged in Arizona and in Congress.
The questions and his responses are below.
1) To what extent do you support the law enforcement ideas proposed by the Democrats in the Arizona State Legislature and in Congress? Please give two reasons.
“In general, the justice reform agenda proposed by Democrats in Congress and in the Arizona Legislature represents a good start. I support the major initiatives in broad form, but there are improvements to be made. Addressing the Arizona Democrats specifically:”
◆ “I support mandatory body cameras because they are good for everyone, including the police.”
◆ “I support independent investigations of all allegations of police misconduct, not just those involving the use of deadly force.”
◆ “I support a statewide, publicly accessible database to track officer discipline issues from agency to agency.”
◆ “Improved training should always be a goal, but it is not a panacea.”
◆ “Absolutely, limit qualified immunity! But this is a complicated matter where state efforts could potentially conflict with federal law. Congress needs to act, too.”
“Systemic racism cannot be challenged without massive structural change and evolving beyond the cop-as-warrior mentality will require deep cultural change.”
2) Is there a law enforcement idea missing from the proposals advanced by Democrats that you would champion? Please explain.
“I support the #8CANTWAIT campaign to immediately implement specific restrictions on officer use of force. And I am open to innovative approaches such as the “constitutional small claims court” idea being discussed in both progressive and conservative circles, which would provide an avenue for people to address civil rights violations that are less grave but more pervasive, such as racially biased traffic stops.”
3) Please advise two ways you would work with police unions to achieve law enforcement reform in your county.
“Like the Phoenix City Council, which recently voted to implement and fund community oversight, I am going to create an oversight board at the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office composed of stakeholders from all backgrounds, and I will invite our law enforcement partners into that forum where they can work with us to move toward justice.”
“Part of the problem is that we are asking law enforcement to serve as social workers as our default response system for mental health crises and substance abuse interventions. We need to stop expecting the police to deal with every social problem we refuse to take on at the political level — and the police officers I know would welcome that relief.”
4) What is your reaction to what happened in Atlanta on Friday? Please explain.
“I grew up in Georgia, and Rayshard Brooks was killed just down the street from where a close family member lives with their spouse, who is Black. His death is painfully similar to that of Dion Johnson here in Phoenix. Both of these losses hit close to home for me, but the worst part is remembering that they are just the latest additions to a long list of unarmed African Americans killed by police.”
Arizona and the rest of the country are moving forward in modernizing police conduct and the monitoring of law enforcement officer behavior.
If elected, Will Knight will work to ensure law enforcement reforms are enforced throughout Maricopa County.
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