Mesa Police Chief Dennis Donna took a welcome — if small and tardy — step on Monday to end his department's long-standing tradition of stonewalling.
Donna met with media representatives in 10-minute segments to discuss the recent spate of police-involved shootings, police training, and possible formation of a citizens police review board.
The meetings were too short to get into depth on any of the issues, and the chief should have been more accessible before now.
In fairness, though, Donna can't say much about the shootings because investigations of them are ongoing. He rightfully urged patience and restraint on the part of the public while investigators do their job.
Also, Donna's willingness to meet — though briefly — with the media on Monday is a far cry from the stonewalling of his predecessors during times of controversy. Donna used the meetings to point out that police officers receive considerable training in nonlethal means of subduing violent suspects, and the training pays off in in what the public doesn't see or hear: that is, thousands of incidents in which potentially dangerous confrontations are resolved without bloodshed.
We would hope, however, that Donna wasn't suggesting training cannot be improved. For example, other police agencies around the Valley and the country have created crisis intervention teams that have extensive training in dealing with deranged suspects. Donna should look into doing likewise.
One of the most encouraging comments Donna made on Monday was his openness to the creation of a citizens police review board — something several City Council members also support. Once it is fully understood that such a board would not actually make policy for the police department but act instead as a public sounding board and make recommendations, council support by all rights should be unanimous.
It is significant that the City Council's apparent change of heart after years of strong opposition to police review has followed the creation of the system by which council members are elected by district, instead of at-large. This could be interpreted as an indication of greater responsiveness to constituents resulting from district representation.
Chief Donna's open door on Monday was welcome. Now he and the City Council should open it permanently by creating a citizens police review board.