PHOENIX — The new head of the Department of Public Safety said there is "a disproportionate use of force against people of color" on a nationwide basis.
But Jeffrey Glover told members of the Senate Committee on Director Nominations on Monday that he does not believe police officers are "systemically racist." He said, though, they have been called upon to enforce what could be considered laws that have disparate effects on minority communities, including here in Arizona.
The comments came as Glover, the pick of Gov. Katie Hobbs to head the DPS, survived a key hurdle, gaining unanimous recommendation. Glover, who has been serving since tapped earlier this year, now needs confirmation of the full Senate.
Lawmakers on the panel queried Glover on who he intends to hire and whether he would quit if his views on funding DPS diverged from the governor. He said he has not made decisions on the former and could not answer the latter.
But there was interest by members of the screening panel to question Glover, who is Black, about race relations.
"You're talking about a complex issue when you're talking about racism," he said.
On one hand, Glover told lawmakers, "overt" racism is clearly not acceptable.
"But we do understand that there are implicit biases that people do carry," he continued. "And that is a little more of a concern within law enforcement, which is why we've been training on it for the past 20 years to address these issues, to ensure that our officers are doing the right thing."
And there's something else.
"I don't believe it is the people as much as maybe laws or things that we enforce at times that may have an effect on the minority community," Glover said. "There's different laws that may impact minorities greater than others."
He cited, for example, SB 1070, a 2010 law designed to have state and local police enforce federal immigration laws. That included a requirement for police, when stopping a vehicle, to ask occupants to provide proof of legal presence in this country.
Many of the provisions were struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court. But what's been referred to as the "papers, please" remains on the books after the Attorney General's Office agreed to issue an opinion on how that can be enforced and precautions against racial profiling.
"We saw that there were a lot of Hispanics that were being stopped or pulled over," Glover said, something that had a greater impact on people of color.
"It's not that the officers were racist," he said. "It's just that we had a law that, quite frankly, was created with good intention. It just had a negative impact on a community."
Sen. Jake Hoffman who chairs the committee pursued the issue.
"Even if I accept the premise that 1070 was racist, which I don't ... that's one instance," said the Queen Creek Republican. "It doesn't reflect a systematic issue."
Glover repeated his assertion that he does not see systematic racism.
"I'm saying that people are people and that you're going to have individuals that will do different things that may have an implicit connotation to it," he said.
"You have laws that may have an unintended consequence," Glover said. "But I'm not saying it from a systematic, racist connotation."
There is a history within DPS.
In 2006, seeking to end a 5-year-old lawsuit, the agency agreed to collect "meaningful" data on its traffic stops for the following three years, including the race of those involved.
Yet a follow up of records of 2007 stops showed that DPS officers were still far more likely to ask Hispanic motorists for permission to search their vehicles than other groups.
That study showed there is no evidence that Hispanics were more likely to be carrying contraband. In fact, the report said the research showed that Hispanics were not only the least likely to object to searches but also the least likely to be found in possession of illegal items when searched.
Hoffman also grilled Glover on the fact that Hobbs was endorsed by Living United for Change in Arizona. But LUCHA also has been active in rallies to "defund" the police in favor of spending money on programs that invest in communities.
The senator wanted to know what would happen if Hobbs, who has not pursued such an agenda, decided to go along.
Glover said his role would be to show the governor and her staff data on crime, human smuggling, the fentanyl crisis all "as a reason why you should not defund the police."
What's been happening across the country, he told lawmakers, is that communities that have taken money away from police "have had to re-fund, at a very high price."
"That's a significant issue because when you defund you tend to make your community victims of crime," Glover said.
He spoke of the experience in Compton, Calif, where he grew up and where his father still lives, which disbanded its police department in 2000.
"It started a crime wave," Glover said.
"The people there just wanted good policing," he said. "They didn't want the police department to go away. They just wanted to have good policing."
Sen. Sine Kerr, R-Buckeye, queried Glover on how he would handle protests.
He said all that starts ahead of an event.
"Most of the information is out there, most of the information is being posted, the social media, the announcement to gather," Glover said. He said that allows police to reach out to those involved.
"You will find a lot of times they will start providing you information or context as to what they are going to do," Glover said. "That actually better prepares us as law enforcement professionals to be able to do our job."
He said if organizers say they're going to seek mass arrests, then police know what resources they need to deploy.
"They have a right to protest," Glover said. "But you have to do it under the law. It has to be lawful protest."
And he said if there are indications up front that there will be illegal activity "you have to warn them that if you go outside these boundaries, you will be arrested."
Glover also said that if there are issues, it isn't necessary for police to immediately go in and start to round up those responsible, especially if it looks like officers will be overwhelmed.
"With cell phones, with cameras, with monitoring systems, we have a better opportunity of being able to go after those offenders at a later date as well if we can't immediate effect an arrest," he said.
Glover also told the screening committee panel he supports to decision by Katie Hobbs to dissolve the Border Strike Force and instead reallocate the $12 million that lawmakers had previously allocated instead to other duties by DPS officers. That financial move, which still has to be approved by the Legislature, has come over the objections of several sheriffs who say the DPS officers, plus the funds for local law enforcement, have been crucial to dealing with fentanyl and human smuggling.
Kerr said she also has heard from the local Border Patrol chief who told her of "atrocities that they're seeing."
Hobbs, however, has been unconvinced.
"Right now, the Border Strike Force is not actually being utilized at the border," she said at a February press conference. "So we want to coordinate those resources where they can be most helpful with law enforcement there."
Kerr questioned Glover whether he believes DPS should simply play a secondary role to local law enforcement.
"What I have proposed is we work in conjunction with the sheriffs and with those local municipalities to address issues that are essentially the smuggling and the fentanyl issues," he responded. And Glover told Sen. Jake Hoffman, R-Queen Creek, who chairs the panel, that there are good reasons for DPS to be in a collaborative role versus being the leader.
"Although they may not have the technology ... what they do have is actionable intelligence," he explained.
"They're able to actually hear from their community members," he said. "They are making arrests, they are coming into contact with these individuals."