Jeri Williams ‘Honored and Humbled’ to Serve as Phoenix’s First Female Police Chief
By: Cindy G. Castillo
Jeri L. Williams’ professional life has been characterized by a number of “firsts” – the first person in her family to pursue a career in law enforcement; and now, she’s all ready to serve as Phoenix’s first female police chief.
“[I feel] honored, humbled, but also recognize and realize the responsibility that the “first” carries with it,” Williams said. “I am someone whether I like it or not, or uncomfortable with or not in a role model position for many people, and I take the responsibility of being the “first” very seriously.”
Williams was sworn in to the state’s largest law enforcement agency on October 28th with a ceremony for the books. She was greeted by a performance by the Maryvale High School choir and officially sworn in by her husband, Judge Cody Williams of the South Mountain Justice Court. Her position is a milestone for the City of Phoenix as this is the first time it’s ever employed a woman to do the job. She will be replacing Chief Joe Yahner, who served 31 years at the department.
Williams is proud to stand behind three decades of experience in law enforcement. She’s served 22 years with the Phoenix Police Department before serving briefly from 2011 to 2016 as the Police Chief for the City of Oxnard, California. Now, she’s back the Valley of the Sun, the city that kicked off her law enforcement career.
“I’m very pleased, blessed and fortunate to be back home in the Phoenix Police Department where day in and day our men and women in uniform and our support staff really want to do well and really want to do right within our community,” she said.
But more than anything, she says she’s in love with the diversity that Phoenix offers as a community. “I really love [that]. You can go to any section of the city and see every ethnicity, every gender, every sexual orientation, every religion, every phase,” she explains, “it’s really refreshing to see that in the community.”
Her work hasn’t gone unnoticed and she’s received a number of prestigious awards, including being selected as one of Arizona’s 48 Most Intriguing Women in 2013. And in 2016, she was recognized as California Assembly District 44 Woman of the Year for her leadership and outstanding accomplishments leading the Oxnard Police Department.