Public safety committee discusses vaping, bullying, and new technology for officers

Councilmember Thelda Williams, Councilmember Michael Nowakowski, Vice Mayor Betty Guardado, and Councilmember Carlos Garcia at the Public Safety and Justice Committee meeting on Dec. 11, 2019. (Katelyn Dyer/DD)

The Public Safety Committee met on Wednesday to discuss some new items that pertain to downtown Phoenix.

Information was presented to the subcommittee on 2020 Speak Up, Stand Up, Save a Life, which refers to a conference that will be hosted next January to Arizona students.

Students will receive training in trauma, grief, bullying, depression and abuse that they can take back with them and share with other students. The training will be led by students and leaders to train them about warning signs and when to report these types of issues.

“It really is just an emphasis to try and help the crisis that’s happening with so many young people,” Public Defender and Assistant Director David Ward said. “Serious traumas are happening and this is an attempt to help.”

The student conference and training is meant to aid students in feeling comfortable sharing these topics with adults they trust so that they can speak up, stand up, and save a life.

A vaping report was provided to the subcommittee to inform them of options the City of Phoenix has to address vaping issues in the community and take steps to regulate these types of products.

Since this has become popular among the youth and public, respiratory illnesses have occurred associated with the use of e-cigarettes and vaping. Cottonwood, Douglas, Flagstaff, Goodyear and Tucson have all taken action to prohibit these products from being sold to anyone under the age of 21.

“We have never seen this, we read more and more about the progression in teenagers and how there are all of these effects on teenagers using these,” Councilmember Thelda Williams said.

The issue of vaping was presented in the last session, the first approach suggesting that vaporized smoking be added to the definition of smoking and the latter approach suggesting increasing the age allowed to purchase tobacco from 18 to 21. Both failed to pass.

Input from the subcommittee was requested on how to handle the matter in going forward. Councilmember Michael Nowakowski suggested this item be presented to the mayor in order for implementation and action to be taken.

The council also discussed a report to request input from the subcommittee for the 2020 State and Federal Legislative Agendas. It recommended the committee prioritize increase funding for police officer training, firefighter cancer prevention, 9-1-1 public safety, as well as increasing mental health resources.

Vice Mayor Betty Guardado said she wanted to see what it would look like to expand the 9-1-1 operating systems in Phoenix and throughout the valley.

“I would like to see a plan in terms of how huge the call volume is,” Guardado said. “I was just at the facility and it looked a little cramped.”

She recommended a budget be made up to see how these plans would be implemented.

The council discussed a request for approval to enter into a contract that would supply tasers, virtual reality headsets and Axon Performance software for police officers.

The tasers provide a non-lethal alternative to ones formerly used and allow officers to subdue threats in high risk situations. The focus presented was to enhance end performance from officers, and improve effectiveness.

The virtuality training would try to improve officer safety, reduce officer injuries, provide a safer community, reduce suspect injuries, and use the least force necessary when in an arrest, as well as keeping the suspect and officer from self harm.

This item was approved by the Public Safety Committee for recommendation to City Council.

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