Police Brutality in the Valley of the Sun
Shocking footage of a Phoenix police officer telling a 22-year-old man, “I’m gonna put a fucking cap in your fucking head” has sparked backlash against a department already reeling from the revelation last week of racist social media posts from officers.
Now, the man and family in the video — Dravon Ames, his pregnant fiancée, Iesha Harper, and their two young children — have filed a notice of claim against the city of Phoenix. The family is seeking $10 million in damages. Former Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne is representing the family.
And what caused this reaction from the cops?
Video of the May 29 encounter with Phoenix police near 36th and Roosevelt streets show several Phoenix police officers, some with guns drawn, surrounding the car of the couple and their two young children. It’s unclear what preceded the encounter, but Ames said it all began after their daughter walked out of a Family Dollar store with a doll.
The police were all about the use of violence for these terrible criminals:
At one point, an officer slams Ames’ face against a police car, then kicks his legs apart. Meanwhile, another officer attempts to yank Harper’s 1-year-old daughter out of her arms.
According to the notice of claim, the officer also punched Ames in the back while he had him pressed up against the police vehicle. Ames, who works at a warehouse, said he has suffered physical injuries as a result of the encounter.
The family also alleges that one of the officers injured their 1-year-old child when he attempted to yank the baby out of Harper’s arms.
There are two videos of the second half of the encounter, filmed by people in the apartment complex.
Another angle of the incident filmed by a different resident of the apartment complex where Ames and his pregnant fiancee were dropping off their kids with a babysitter show a Phoenix police officer trying to yank the child from the mother’s arms. pic.twitter.com/pTb07lZAXD
As of right now, the Phoenix PD won’t release the names of the officers:
Phoenix police commented to ABC15 (KNXV-TV) that the officer who cursed, threatened, and roughed up Ames is on a “non-enforcement assignment.” The other officer who pointed a gun at Harper and her children inside the vehicle remains on patrol.
He [Ames] also said that despite being detained for a time in the back of police vehicles, both he and Harper were not arrested or ticketed.
The Phoenix PD already has bad publicity because some of its officers were found to have bashed Muslims and called black people thugs on Facebook.
“CONGRATULATIONS GEORGE ZIMMERMAN!!! Thank you for cleaning up our community one thug at a time,” wrote Phoenix police officer Joshua Ankert on July 14, 2013, the day after Zimmerman was acquitted of murder for shooting 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.
Salary data available on the city’s open data portal shows Ankert made $72,425 for his work with the Phoenix Police Department last year.
Ankert’s post is one of hundreds of shocking social media posts made by Phoenix police officers dug up by the Plain View Project, a database launched over the weekend and created by a team of Philadelphia attorneys in an effort to catalog bigotry and racism among police officers nationwide.
This is not just a Phoenix thing, either. My own city, Mesa, has a police force that is trying to eject its chief through a vote of no confidence because the chief is trying to cut down on the number of use of force incidents by officers.
MESA, AZ — Two unions representing Mesa police officers have declared Chief Ramon Batista does not have the support of the rank-and-file.
In an announcement Wednesday morning, the Mesa Police Association and Mesa Fraternal Order of Police said 95% of the 564 police employees who responded said they had no confidence in the chief’s leadership. Only 23 officers said they supported the chief.
Batista is the third Mesa police chief in the past nine years and was hired in the aftermath of the high-profile shooting of Daniel Shaver by then-officer Phillip Brailsford. He quickly went about making changes aimed at installing a different culture in the department and rebuilding trust with the community.
Daniel Shaver is the (white) guy who was shot in the hallway of a La Quinta Inn on January 28, 2016. The cop who did the shooting was found not guilty. More here at the Wikipedia page: en.wikipedia.org
There is an edited video of the shooting on this page. I watched it once and won’t watch it again because I got physically ill. azcentral.com
The reason I mention the race of Daniel Shaver is just to show that I think there’s a real Us versus Them feeling with the cops versus the community, which is around 70 percent white.
More from the recent union no-confidence vote story:
Despite Batista’s efforts, the department has found itself responding to several high-profile use of force incidents involving its officers, including one where a group of officers repeatedly punched a man, Robert Johnson, in the hallway of an apartment complex.
Union representatives have said officers were upset with how Batista handled that and other incidents, both in his statements and actions. The chief has called the level of force officers used in those situations troubling, and the union took issue with his decision to release body camera video to the public before an internal investigation was complete.
“Today’s announcement of no confidence in Chief Batista was not driven by any single incident,” said Will Biascoechea, president of the Mesa Fraternal Order of Police, in a statement. “Instead, our hand was forced by more than a year of public attacks on police officers’ integrity, professionalism and a disregard for officer safety.”
“Regardless of the results of the survey and how they feel about their leadership, Mesa police officers still need to be held accountable for excessive use of force such as in the case of Robert Johnson,” attorney Benjamin Taylor, who represents Johnson in a civil rights lawsuit against the city for the hallway punching incident, said.
Currently Batista has the support of the mayor, but I have no idea how long that is going to last.
Just a personal note—I have to admit I don’t feel comfortable in my interactions with the Mesa PD. Granted, if you just go by the racial profiling model, I’m low on the list of People Who Are Likely To End Up Dead Or Injured In An Encounter With The Police, as I’m a white middle-aged female. However, I had a most uncomfortable encounter with a Mesa PD cop in a traffic stop two years ago and that really is influencing my feelings. You can bet that I am very careful to keep an eye out for cops when I’m out and about.