‘The new Sinema’: Police reform supporters sour on Phoenix mayor after council endorsements

Following her council runoff endorsements, some former Kate Gallego supporters now say they aren’t sure what she stands for. || Gage Skidmore/Flickr

By Taylor Seely || Arizona Republic

The Phoenix mayor’s recent City Council race endorsements sparked rebukes from residents and groups who said she’s abandoning their police reform goals and placating pro-law enforcement voters. In response, Kate Gallego said her steadfast support for police should come as no surprise.

Two council races, to represent Districts 6 and 8, are headed to runoff elections in March. If Gallego has her way, the council will add a former longtime police officer and replace an anti-establishment incumbent known for scrutinizing law enforcement. It would likely shift the political balance of the council to the center.

Activists who want more police accountability, and worked to get Gallego elected thinking she’d advance their cause, are frustrated.

“We don’t have a mayor that’s going to stand up for communities of color,” said Viri Hernandez, leader of Poder in Action. The social justice advocacy group opposed Gallego’s 2018 mayoral challenger who was backed by the police union.

Hernandez said Gallego’s views didn’t perfectly align with Poder in Action’s, but they thought “based on what she said, she was ready to hold police accountable.”

Following her council runoff endorsements, some former Kate Gallego supporters now say they aren’t sure what she stands for.

“Have her objectives changed since 2018? What has changed and where did her courage go?” wondered Katie Gipson, a District 8 resident and Creighton Elementary School District board member-elect. Gipson passed out campaign materials for Gallego during her mayoral run.

In an email response to The Arizona Republic, Gallego said she has long advocated for supporting law enforcement, including more officers and higher pay, and that “most people in Phoenix are hugely supportive of the police department.”

The candidates she has endorsed, Kevin Robinson and Kesha Hodge Washington, would work to improve policing in Phoenix while also supporting the department, Gallego said. “It is quite possible to do more than one thing at a time,” she added.

For their part, Robinson and Hodge Washington said they’re neither pro- nor anti-police, but rather pro-public safety. They said they want to support the department while also holding individual officers accountable and that work must be done to mend trust between residents and police.

“What I am against is bad policing,” Robinson said.

Gallego picks civil litigator, former police officer

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