These Activists Want People to Stop Calling the Cops

Police in Phoenix don't know how their relationship with the community got so bad

PHOENIX — On a hot Friday night in a strip mall in West Phoenix, the activist group Poder in Action was holding a community event to promote collective safety. The group generally encourages the public to take better care of one another during times of crisis, but this time they had an even stronger message: Unless you absolutely have to, don’t call the cops.

"We believe that safety at its core is with each other. It is not with more police," said Isabel Gonzales, an organizer with the group, as attendees looked through handouts with titles like "Strong Communities Make Police Obsolete."

The activists' extreme position follows a few very bad years for community-police relations in the city. Phoenix had the highest number of officer-involved fatal shootings in the U.S. in 2017, at 23. And in recent months, a number of high-profile incidents have rocked the city, including the discovery in June of racist and xenophobic Facebook posts by current and former members of the force.

The police say the posts are under investigation, and that their fatal shooting numbers are getting better; so far this year, there have been 8.

But both sides agree that the relationship is broken. VICE News Tonight goes to Phoenix to see what happens when community trust in the police is so low that the two sides stop talking to each other altogether.