For more than five years, I have received the best civics education and it took place outside of a traditional classroom. As a neighborhood leader for one of the largest neighborhood associations in Phoenix, I have a solid knowledge of how the city works in terms of structure of the city council, how policy is written and adopted, subcommittees and their function.
Initially, my involvement with the city of Phoenix was zoning related, however, I wanted to understand what was driving crimes in our neighborhoods, where they were occurring, what to look for, and how to best serve my community. I learned that public safety is a collaboration of citizens and the police department. Public safety is not just the responsibility of the Phoenix Police Department, but our entire community.
That is why I established Operation: Blue Ribbon.
Operation: Blue Ribbon was a response to the unrest that began in May 2020, calling for the “defunding” or “disbanding” of police departments nationally. In the city of Phoenix, these efforts have created uncertainty, lack of morale and a negative impact on the ability to retain and recruit qualified officers.
Our activities center around the simple gesture of tying a blue ribbon around a tree in a yard, lamp post, mailbox, or an entrance to a business. The officers will see the ribbons as they are on patrol and, hopefully, this will send a message of public support and help to boost their morale.
Our goal is to bring communities together; bridging gaps between neighborhoods and precincts, offer information and assistance in establishing Block Watches, as well as inform residents of the many resources available to create safe neighborhoods.
Recently, we have seen communities requesting more help from police, such as one of the South Mountain communities. The community gathered together for a meeting Sept. 22, demanding something be done and for police to be more present. This was in response to the rise in violent crimes, a 25% increase in fact, and they need help.
We are committed to supporting the men and women of the Phoenix Police Department, and this includes all ranks and departments. We are focused on civil, civic participation.
The reason we are focused on restoring civility is because the “defund the police” movement has recently reached an all time low.
The activists regularly use hate speech, slinging terms such as “white supremacists” and “neo-Nazi” when referring to police officers; they demand the firing of the city manager and other officials; they spew disrespectful comments about Chief Jeri Williams, and they feel absolutely justified in doing so.
For nearly two years, we have endured radical comments about our “most violent” police department. What we don’t hear are practical solutions that might create a beneficial outcome for all. Imagine the possibilities if these activists put their time and energy into volunteer activities, such as establishing a Block Watch or neighborhood patrol; activities that contribute to public safety.
As a result, fewer citizens that previously spoke publicly in support of PD no longer call or even comment. The meetings were too upsetting. We need these supporters, especially as the 2021-22 budget is rolled out. This budget is one of the best that we have seen in years, with resources for the homeless, addressing climate change, trees and police training.
Even though this budget includes priorities of the “defund’ movement, they are actively fighting against it along with ally District 8 Councilman Carlos Garcia.
Unfortunately, he helps to incite the fire that drives the emotion with his inappropriate attire and by ignoring constituents that comment regularly that “they don’t feel safe to walk outside at night,” “dealers and junkies everywhere,” “crime out of control.” They do not get his help; they don’t even receive a call back.
Advocacy must be conducted in a civil manner. Being respectful and professional only facilitates our city government in making decisions that better our communities without the distraction of hateful discourse.
Recently, I was discussing the erosion of civility at the city council meetings with a friend from high school. His father, Sam Mardian, was the 48th mayor of Phoenix from 1960 to 1964. His comments resonated with me.
He said, for his father “it was all about the city … what was best for the city, above all else.”
And his brother once stated that their father “relished being a force for good in the community.”
That’s what we should all strive for.
Anne Matlock Ender is president and founder of Operation: Blue Ribbon.