Phoenix police get training on people with mental issues

Posted 

PHOENIX (AP) — Phoenix police officers must undergo training on dealing with people who have mental health issues under the latest reform being rolled out to improve accountability and trust, the agency’s chief said Monday.

Chief Jeri Williams announced hundreds of officers who patrol the streets of the nation’s fifth-largest city must attend an eight-hour “mental health first aid” course over the next two years to help them better deal with people who are mentally ill or have substance abuse problems.

“The city is committed to having the best police department possible,” Williams told reporters, acknowledging “we have a lot of work ahead.”

Phoenix recently began deploying the last of 2,000 body-worn cameras for a force approaching 3,000 members. It also requires officers to keep records of when they point their guns at people and is working with community members to come up with some kind of independent civilian review board.

In a city-commissioned report, the National Police Foundation early this year recommended exploring better ways to deal with the mentally ill after finding Phoenix had 44 officer-involved shootings in 2018, more than any other agency during that time period.

The report said community and police leaders agreed that Phoenix police “are not the best equipped to respond to mental health crisis” and urged the city to work with the community and public health agencies to identify better practices.

The push by Phoenix to adopt reforms began early this year with the release of the foundation’s report.

It was speeded up in June after a videotape emerged showing officers pointing their guns and cursing at a black family. The videotape sparked national outrage with calls for Phoenix to fire the officers who were investigating a shoplifting complaint. Williams said Monday the incident is still under investigation.

[GRAPHIC RAW VIDEO: Citizens record on cellphones alleged Phoenix police misconduct]

The couple said their 4-year-old daughter took a doll from a store without their knowledge. They have filed a $10 million claim against the city.

The city-commissioned report did not indicate that mental health issues played a role in last year’s spike in shootings in Phoenix, but law enforcement agencies are regularly criticized for how mentally ill people are handled.

The Albuquerque Police Department is under a federal consent decree after an investigation found a “culture of aggression,” including some 20 fatal shootings over four years and the use of unreasonable force against mentally ill people.

Police Sgt. Gates Townsend, of the Phoenix department’s crisis intervention team, said there are two squads trained to deal with the mentally ill working across the city six days a week. He said officers across the department transport about 700 people undergoing a mental health crisis to urgent care psychiatric facilities each month.

Posted “Phoenix police get training on people with mental issues”, https://www.azfamily.com/news/ap_cnn/phoenix-police-get-training-on-people-with-mental-issues/article_ec189655-9c83-5c35-8fcc-7a9e75442df1.html

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Fired for shooting an unarmed man, officer was rehired so he could collect a lifetime pension

By Eli Rosenberg, July 12

An Arizona police officer who was fired and charged with murder for killing an unarmed man in a hotel hallway was rehired temporarily so he could collect a pension.

Philip Brailsford, who killed Daniel Shaver at a La Quinta hotel in Mesa in 2016, came to the agreement last year with the Mesa city manager’s office to be allowed to be rehired so he could apply for disability pension on the basis of a medical retirement, a striking reversal of his firing by the department after the shooting.

He will receive a lifetime pension of about $30,000 per year.

The agreement was first reported by local news outlets in Arizona, which obtained the settlement agreement that the city reached with Brailsford last August.

Shaver’s shooting captured national attention when it happened in 2016 and again after Brailsford’s trial, when his body camera video was released.

Police were called to the hotel in January 2016 on a complaint about a man with a rifle in one of the rooms. Shaver, 26, had been showing a legal pellet gun that he used in his job in pest control to a woman in the room with him.

The body camera footage begins with the confrontation between Brailsford, other officers, and Shaver and the woman. Shaver complies with the officers’ commands, putting his hands up and lying down on the ground. They threaten to kill him multiple times for not following their orders.

“If you move, we’re going to consider that a threat and we are going to deal with it and you may not survive it,” one says at one point.

“Please do not shoot me,” Shaver begs at one point, his hands in the air. Brailsford opened fire after Shaver appeared to reach behind himself while crawling toward the officers. He was struck five times.

Brailsford, who was carrying an AR-15 rifle with the phrase “You’re F—ed” etched into it, according to a police report, was charged with murder for the shooting and fired soon thereafter from his job. He testified in court that he believed Shaver was reaching for a gun and would have done the same thing again.

He was acquitted in November 2017 after a six-week trial on both second-degree murder and reckless manslaughter charges.

The settlement notes that Brailsford has been treated for post-traumatic stress disorder, something his lawyer Michael Piccarreta told ABC 15stemmed from the shooting incident and criminal prosecution. Piccarreta did not return requests for comment from The Washington Post.

Mesa City Manager Chris Brady told the outlet that Brailsford’s PTSD claim dates to before his determination.

“So in fairness he was given the opportunity to make that appeal to the board,” he said. He did not return requests for comment.

The shooting prompted a multimillion-dollar lawsuit filed by Shaver’s family, which is still pending.

 

Eli Rosenberg, July 12, “Fired for shooting an unarmed man, officer was rehired so he could collect a lifetime pension”, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2019/07/13/fired-shooting-an-unarmed-man-officer-was-rehired-so-he-could-collect-lifetime-pension/

Op-Ed: How Police Brutality Can Function as “Terrorism”

OP-ED – the opinions presented here are those of the author and are not necessarily shared by BRLDF

Photo: @megoconnor13/twitter

Video was made public over the weekend showing Phoenix police officers threatening to shoot members of a black family, which included a child and a toddler. The incident occurred on May 27, when the 4-year-old daughter of Dravon Ames and Iesha Harper allegedly stole a doll from a Family Dollar store. (NPR reports that the child’s parents were unaware of the alleged theft.) Officers followed the family — Ames and Harper, who was pregnant, and their two daughters, ages 4 and 1 — to an apartment complex where the family’s babysitter lived. Officers are seen on cell-phone video shouting at the four to exit their vehicle. One is heard yelling, “Get your fucking hands up” and “I’m gonna put a fucking cap in you,” while another voice — perhaps of the same officer — is heard threatening, “You’re gonna get fucking shot.”

The profane tirades turn physical when one officer handcuffs Ames and another tries to yank the toddler from Harper’s arms. The officer with Ames shoves the 22-year-old father against a police vehicle, kicks his legs until Ames falls to one knee, and thrusts his elbow into Ames’s back. The officer with Harper is seen shouting and pointing in her face and pulling on the arm in which she is carrying her 1-year-old baby. He eventually permits the pregnant woman to hand her children to a bystander before arresting her. None of the family members is armed.

The confrontation has prompted a $10 million civil-rights lawsuit and apologies from Phoenix’s mayor and chief of police. According to the suit, the 1-year-old was injured when the officer tried to wrench her from her mother; the 4-year-old has been experiencing nightmares and wetting the bed out of distress ever since. As far as accountability, Mayor Kate Gallego has scheduled a public forum where residents can voice their concerns about the incident and called for quicker implementation of body cameras across the Phoenix Police Department — an odd solution given that visual evidence was not lacking here. Aside from that, it is possible that no further legal or administrative recourse will be forthcoming. Officers routinely skate for killing people. Why would black Phoenicians expect them to be held accountable for merely threatening to kill?

Official accountability aside, the fear and mistrust sown in black communities via such incidents and the resulting mental-health downsides are well documented. The Phoenix debacle is further evidence that many officers’ interactions with black children in particular are rooted in intimidation and violence, with far-reaching side effects. By most definitions, the brutality applied disproportionately against black people by police across the United States is not “terrorism,” in a technical sense, only because it is permitted by law. That said, it serves a similar end: ensuring that its targets and their communities live in a state of constant stress, mistrust, and fear, practically from the cradle to the grave.

By most measures, Ames and Harper are lucky to be alive. The wealth of instances where similar interactions have ended with an unarmed black person dead at the hands of police hints at how easily the encounter could have turned fatal. The fear generated by this possibility is not a matter of probability. Like most Americans, black people are more likely to die from heart disease, cancer, or even violence committed domestically or on the streets than at the hands of a police officer. But the peculiar nature of law enforcement’s relationship to black communities is what makes it so laden with fear. With the exception of Native Americans — who make up a much smaller share of the general population — black people are the most likely racial demographic to be harassed, brutalized, or killed by police in a given year. This can be attributed in part to the relationship’s long-standing function: During the lynching era — roughly the end of Reconstruction to the end of Jim Crow — the primary job of law enforcement, when it came to black Americans, was to contain them at the bottom of the racial hierarchy by enforcing laws designed to criminalize them, while ensuring that white people were not punished for murdering them or robbing them of their land and labor.

When black people fled the South en masse during the Great Migration to escape this treatment, the cities and towns to which they fled in the North, West, and Midwest greeted them with a presumption of innate criminality, a presumption driven in part by crime statistics that reflected the extent to which the most trivial aspects of their lives — including riding an empty freight train or “speaking loudly in the presence of white women” — had been transformed into crimes in the South. Police were used to corral new black residents into ghettos depressed by poverty and molded by desperation and limited avenues for mobility. Yet remarkably, the structural ills that were imposed on the black sections of these municipalities were cast as products of their residents’ own pathologies. To this day, many Americans remain convinced that the harsh policing that dogs black communities is a necessary response to something inherently wrong with black people. For those on the receiving end, the result is a state of terror. Terrorism works by convincing its targets that they are always being hunted — no matter where they are or what they are doing, their lives are out of their hands. Its aim is victory through fear. And what better way to ensure that people live in fear than to demonstrate that even the most minor transgressions — a 4-year-old’s supposed theft of a doll from a Family Dollar store — can result in their public execution?

The psychological fallout is demonstrated in the data: According to a 2014 study conducted by public-health researchers at Harvard and Boston University, incidents of lethal police violence precipitate a spike in what black adult respondents consider to be “poor mental health days” not just among people close to those victimized but their communities more broadly, judging by metrics established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The impact is racially asymmetrical: “Mental health impacts were not observed among white respondents and resulted only from police killings of unarmed black Americans,” the study reads. For black children, such negative interactions can be formative. A 2018 survey of research on the subject compiled in The Future of Children, a journal of the policy-research partnership between Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and the Brookings Institution, found that many black youth in Chicago view police as “a constant, inescapable, and unwelcome presence” in their lives. Interactions are marked frequently by officers exerting their dominance in the form of offensive questions and degrading directives, causing black children to feel powerless. As a result, by the time they turn 18, many of these youth have a bleak but well-earned outlook on policing: According to a 2014 survey by the Black Youth Project and the University of Chicago’s Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture, more than half of black people between ages 18 and 34 have experienced police violence or harassment or know someone who has. (Thirty-three percent of white respondents and 25 percent of Latino respondents had.) Fewer than half of black respondents said they trust the police, compared to 60 percent of Latinos and 72 percent of whites.

It remains incredible, given this documented mistreatment of so many black children by the police, that pundits and politicians continue to attribute negative disparities to some innate black defect — often located in the black family. Broken black homes are blamed for crime in black communities, with scant or ancillary mention of imposed poverty, the ills of segregation, or the role the state plays in rupturing said families using the criminal-justice system. Police violence is dismissed as subordinate to intraracial violence, or “black-on-black” crime — a phenomenon endemic, to varying degrees, within every racial group — as if the two were separate and distinct phenomena rather than twin products of racist policy. If these pundits are correct, then the May 27 incident in Phoenix might be cast as reasonable treatment for a 4-year-old alleged shoplifter, her pregnant mother, father, and 1-year-old sister. But if — as history and the evidence suggest — black families can more accurately be described as victims of violence than its root cause, then the Phoenix police were culpable in not just an overreaction but an act of terror.

 

“How Police Brutality Can Function as Terrorism”, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2019/06/phoenix-police-threatening-family-was-terrorism.html

Phoenix Mayor Apologizes After Police Draw Guns on Family Over Report of Stolen Doll

Police officers in Phoenix stopping a family after getting a report that a 4-year-old girl had left a store with a doll without paying for it. The city’s mayor condemned the officers’ response.Creditvia Twitter

CreditCreditvia Twitter

By Mihir Zaveri and Sandra E. Garcia

The mayor of Phoenix apologized on Saturday after videos showed that police officers in the city who had been responding to a report of a shoplifting had drawn their weapons, shouted expletives, and threatened to shoot a man in the face in front of his young children.

 

The mayor, Kate Gallego, said in a statement that she was “sick” over what she had seen in the videos.

“It was completely inappropriate and clearly unprofessional,” she said. “There is no situation in which this behavior is ever close to acceptable. As a mother myself, seeing these children placed in such a terrifying situation is beyond upsetting.”

The episode has drawn widespread attention as police encounters with civilians have faced heightened scrutiny, which is increasingly augmented by videos captured by bystanders on cellphones or by officers’ body cameras.

“We want and expect law enforcement to protect and respect, not target and intimidate,” she said. “We need stronger, independent police oversight and bias training, to root out and prevent abuses.”

The Phoenix Law Enforcement Association, the union that represents officers, did not respond to emails on Sunday.

Dravon Ames, Iesha Harper and their two children were driving to a babysitter after shopping at a Family Dollar store when a police car pulled them over.Creditvia Twitter
Creditvia Twitter

No charges were filed in connection with the episode, which started at a Family Dollar store. What preceded the events is in dispute. Neither side could even agree on when it had happened: The notice of claim said it had been May 29, and the police officers said it had been May 27.

[Read how Phoenix officials were blaming residents for the high number of police-involved shootings last year.]

Two videos of the encounter show officers yelling. Shouting expletives, they tell Mr. Ames to get his hands up. An officer can be heard saying that he’s going to “put a cap” in Mr. Ames’s head. As Mr. Ames exits the vehicle, an officer presses him against the pavement and handcuffs him, then pushes him against a police vehicle.

The footage shows another officer pointing his firearm toward the car as the couple’s 4-year-old daughter exits the car from the back seat, followed by Ms. Harper, who is carrying her 1-year-old daughter in one arm. An officer yells at her to put the child on the ground and then grabs her arm.

The Police Department said on Facebook that the episode had begun after a store manager had alerted an officer to a possible shoplifting occurrence and had said that those being sought were getting into a car. The department said officers had found the couple’s car a mile away from the store.

The department said Mr. Ames had admitted he had stolen a package of underwear that he had thrown out of the car window and had said that he was also driving with a suspended license.

Mr. Horne disputed the police account and said officers had been alerted by an “anonymous alleged witness” that the couple had been shoplifting, and had followed them to the apartment complex without their patrol car sirens on.

The notice of claim said the couple had not realized until they were back at their car that their 4-year-old daughter had walked out of the store with a doll.

The couple had been driving to their babysitter’s home when a police car pulled in behind them, according to the notice. Once the couple was in the parking lot, an officer had walked up to the driver’s side with a gun drawn, Mr. Horne wrote, adding that the officer then opened the door and began to shout at Mr. Ames.

A second officer pointed a gun at Ms. Harper, who had been sitting in the back seat on the driver’s side and who was “pregnant, which was obvious from her appearance,” Mr. Horne wrote.

The door to the car was malfunctioning and the couple could not get out of the car, the notice said. The officer walked around the car with his gun drawn and dragged Ms. Harper and her daughters out of the car by the neck, according to the notice.

The store did not press charges, Mr. Horne said. An employee at the store declined to comment on Sunday, and said a manager was unavailable.

Mr. Horne said Mr. Ames had denied telling the police officers that he had stolen underwear.

The mayor said she was calling for a community meeting on June 18 in which the police chief was expected to answer questions from the public.

Correction: 

An earlier version of a picture caption with this article misstated the name of the store where the family was shopping. It was Family Dollar, not Dollar General.

 

Mihir Zaveri and Sandra E. Garcia, Phoenix Mayor Apologizes After Police Draw Guns on Family Over Report of Stolen Doll”, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/16/us/phoenix-police-brutality-lawsuit.html.

Parents say Phoenix cops pointed guns at them after 4-year-old daughter took doll from store

A couple has filed a $10 million lawsuit against the Phoenix Police Department alleging civil rights violations and police brutality after an officer allegedly pulled their guns on the family. Unbeknownst to Dravon Ames and Lesha Harper, their 4-year-old daughter had taken a doll from a Family Dollar Store, CBS affiliate KPHO-TV reported.

The family claims they weren’t aware their daughter had taken the doll until they were in their car and on their way to a nearby apartment complex where their babysitter lived. That’s when they said a police car silently pulled up behind them and an officer went up to Ames and allegedly pointed a gun at him.

According to the suit, Ames was pulled out of the car, kicked in the right leg and punched in the back — all while Harper, who is pregnant, and her 4-year-old and 1-year-old daughter remained in the car. The officer reportedly also pointed his gun at Harper and her children.

“We’re talking about a little doll that’s worth maybe $5 and the horrors that came from the overreaction to that,” former Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne, who is representing the family.

Ames and Harper said they were threatened and handcuffed. They said the incident occurred May 29, though police contend it happened on May 27.

The Phoenix Police Department said it was opening an investigation after partial footageof the incident was released by a bystander. The family says the video does not include the first five to 10 minutes of the encounter. No arrests were made nor were charges filed, though Ames says his car was impounded and that the injuries he sustained have made him unable to work.

Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego issued a statement calling the officer’s conduct as seen in the footage “completely inappropriate and clearly unprofessional.” Gallego has scheduled a community meeting to take place Tuesday.

Mayor Kate Gallego

@MayorGallego

My statement on the May 27th Phoenix Police incident:

1,986 people are talking about this

“After this, me and my daughters will never be the same anymore or feel the same for police because it seems like every police is out for blood or something. We wasn’t really doing anything,” Harper said during a press conference.

The Family Dollar Store declined to press charges after the doll was returned. Officers were reportedly at the store to investigate an unrelated shoplifting incident.

 

 / CBS NEWS, “Parents say Phoenix cops pointed guns at them after 4-year-old daughter took doll from store”, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/parents-say-phoenix-officers-pointed-guns-at-them-after-4-year-old-took-doll-from-store-2019-06-15/

SWAT Team Takes Children after Parents Disagree with Doctor.

DIANNA M. NÁÑEZ | ARIZONA REPUBLIC

Updated 1:12 p.m. EDT Mar. 25, 2019
Police breaking down door to check on child
A Chandler father provided home-security video of Chandler police breaking down the door of a family’s home for a DCS-requested welfare check of a child with a spiking fever, after parents refused to give police permission to enter their home, saying their toddler son was fine.
COURTESY OF CHANDLER FATHER

After police officers busted down the door of a Chandler home to take a toddler with a spiking fever from his parents, advocates and a state legislator are questioning if a new law intended to protect families’ rights is failing.

Officers pointing guns forced their way into the family’s home in the middle of the night last month after the Arizona Department of Child Safety called police for a welfare check on a child with a 100 degree-plus fever and no vaccinations.

The parents had ignored a doctor’s recommendation to take their 2-year-old to the hospital, saying their son’s fever had decreased.

Rep. Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa, who helped craft legislation requiring DCS to obtain a warrant before removing a child from their parents or guardians in non-emergency circumstances, said she was outraged by the response of police and DCS officials in the case.

“It was not the intent (of the law) that the level of force after obtaining a warrant was to bring in a SWAT team,” Townsend said. “The imagery is horrifying. What has our country become that we can tear down the doorway of a family who has a child with a high fever that disagrees with their doctor?”

DCS officials did not respond to The Arizona Republic’s questions about their policies for child-welfare checks and warrants, or whether their handling of this family’s case was in line with those policies.

Townsend said she wants lawmakers to review warrant procedures that led to police using force, left a family traumatized and placed three children in state custody. The fact that DCS obtained a court-approved warrant shows this wasn’t an emergency that threatened the child’s life or safety so there wasn’t time to file with the court, she said.

Child-welfare workers used to be able to remove children without warrants. But under a law that took effect in July Arizona lawmakers designated limited circumstances for removing a child from their parent without a warrant: DCS must have probable cause to believe a child is at imminent risk of harm and there’s no less-intrusive alternative to removal, or DCS must have probable cause to believe a child is a victim of sexual or physical abuse that can only be evaluated by trained medical personnel.

“What about parents’ rights to decide what’s best for their child?” Townsend said. “Parents felt the child was fine. Next thing we know, the Gestapo is at their door.”

The case has made its way to a juvenile court room and sparked conversation over the balance between parental rights to care for their children versus the power of DCS and doctors.

It could take months of hearings and DCS-mandated instructions before the parents regain custody of their children. Or maybe they never will.

Rep. Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa, attended a juvenile hearing to see if the Department of Child Safety violated the rights of a Mesa mother and father when taking custody of their child.

Rep. Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa, attended a juvenile hearing to see if the Department of Child Safety violated the rights of a Mesa mother and father … Show more 

DIANNA M. NÁÑEZ

Child-welfare warrants were supposed to protect parental rights

Lawmakers and family-rights’ advocates hoped the new law would reduce the number of children being removed by DCS. Child-welfare lawsuits in Arizona and across the nation, citing the First and Fourteenth amendment, argued for due process and protections against illegal search and seizure.

In 2016, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that removing a child without court approval violates parents’ constitutional rights.

You get your day in court for most crimes, advocates said, why wouldn’t the same apply when removing a child because of accusations of neglect or abuse?

By the time Arizona lawmakers approved a child-welfare warrant law in 2017, critics said it had too many loopholes and wouldn’t reduce unjust removals.

In fact, the total number of child removals has declined since the law took effect, but only slightly, and it’s unclear what role the new law played in the decline.

Despite lawmakers approving the warrant law to require greater transparency and address constitutional rights, DCS says it doesn’t track data for when children have been removed due to emergency situations without a warrant. And total removals include a variety of situations, including when parents voluntarily surrender their child, where the court — not DCS — orders the removal request and when a child is in the juvenile-justice system.

DCS placed 4,649 children into the foster-care system in the six-month period that ended December 2018, according to DCS data. In the six-month period prior to the July law, DCS removed 4,887 children.

That’s down from a high mark of 6,815 in fall 2015, when nearly 19,000 children were in the foster-care system and families and child-welfare advocates began pushing for a warrant law.

Concern over DCS abusing loopholes in the system prompted a second round of legislation in 2018. The restrictions designated “exigent circumstances” when DCS may remove children without a warrant. Removing the child must be so dire that there’s no time to use the electronic system to gain authorization from a judge who’s on call 24/7.

Family advocates calling themselves the Arizona DCS Oversight Group argue what happened to a Chandler family on the night of Feb. 25 is evidence the state is abusing its power and the rights of parents.

“If they can do this to one family they can do it to anyone,” said Lori Ford, a member of the self-appointed public watchdog group. “DCS took their kids and treated these parents like they were criminals.”

A fever, a doctor’s order, a parent’s right to choose medical care for their child

It started with a visit to the doctor for a fever.

On February 25, the mother took her 2-year-old boy to the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine clinic in Tempe, according to Chandler police records.

It was dinner time. But the toddler’s fever had spiked to over 100 degrees.

The doctor asked if the child had his vaccinations.

The mother said no.

Concerned that a lethargic child with a fever and lacking vaccinations could have meningitis, the doctor instructed the mother to take the child to the emergency department at Banner Cardon Children’s Medical Center in Mesa, according to attorneys at a March 7 court hearing following the removal of the children.

The Republic knows the names of the parents and child but it does not typically identify children in the child-welfare system.

The doctor contacted Banner physicians who recommended the child be “taken to the emergency room as soon as possible,” according to police records. The doctor told the mother that meningitis can be life-threatening and said the hospital would contact her when the mother arrived.

After they left the doctor’s office, the child was laughing and playing with his siblings. The mother took the child’s temperature again. It was near normal.

Shortly after 6:30 p.m., the mother called the doctor and told her that her toddler no longer had a fever so she wasn’t taking him to the emergency room.

The mother also said she was worried about getting in trouble with DCS because her child did not have vaccinations.

The doctor said the mother would not get in trouble. The mother again agreed to take her child to the hospital, according to police records.

In Arizona, a parent may decline vaccinations for their child based on personal, religious or medical exemptions.

About three hours later, the hospital contacted the doctor to advise her that the child had not shown up and the mother wasn’t answering her phone, according to police records. The doctor contacted DCS.

A DCS caseworker called Chandler Police and “requested officers to check the welfare of a two year old infant,” according to police records. A caseworker said he was on his way to the house.

Officers with ‘lethal coverage’ kick down door, enter home with DCS worker

Chandler police forced their way into a family's home for a DCS welfare check on a child with a spiking fever

Chandler police forced their way into a family’s home for a DCS welfare check on a child with a spiking fever
COURTESY OF FAMILY

It was about 10:30 p.m. when two police officers knocked on the family’s door. The officers heard someone coughing.

Officer Tyler Cascio wrote in a police report that he knocked on the door several times but no one answered.

A neighbor approached the officers and police explained the situation. The woman said she knew her neighbor and that “she was a good mother.” At the request of officers, the neighbor called the mother and said police wanted to speak with her.

The DCS caseworker arrived and updated police on the toddler’s fever and the mother choosing not to take her child to the hospital. The officer called the family’s doctor, who repeated her recommendation that the mother take the child to the hospital.

Police dispatch told the officers that a man at the home had called requesting that they call him. They called, and the man identified himself as the sick boy’s father.

The officer said they told the father they needed to enter the home for DCS to check on the child. The father refused, explaining that his son’s “fever broke and he was fine,” according to police records.

Officers tried to call the parents again, but no one answered. They told the caseworker the parents refused to open their door.

At about 11:30 p.m., the caseworker informed officers that DCS planned to obtain a “temporary custody notice” from a judge to remove the child for emergency medical aid.

The caseworker “advised they obtained a court order for temporary custody in order to take (redacted) to the hospital.” The order was signed at 12:04 a.m. by Judge Tracy Nadzieja, according to police records.

Cascio wrote that officers consulted with the police criminal investigations bureau and SWAT.

“Based upon the court order, the intent of DCS to serve the order, and exigency to ensure the health and welfare of the child, the decision was made to force entry to the home if the parents refused to respond to verbal requests,” according to police records. Police knocked, saying they had a court order and would force entry if needed, according to police records.

The Republic has requested the police-worn body-camera footage.

It was after 1 a.m. when officers kicked down the family’s door. One officer carried a shield, while another was described as having “lethal coverage.” Officers pointing guns yelled, “Chandler Police Department,” and entered the house.

The father came to the door. Officers placed him in handcuffs and took him and the mother outside. Inside, they found a juvenile who said she was sick and had thrown up in her bed.

Officers said the home was “messy” with clothing piles and concrete floors. In the parent’s room, a shotgun lay next to the bed, according to police records.

The caseworker spoke with two of the children without their parents present. He told officers it was “necessary to obtain a temporary custody order” for the parents’ two other children, according to police records.

Since there was no “criminal incident” and because the mother refused, no photos were taken inside the home, according to the police records.

Neither of the parents was arrested.

Officials took the parents’ three children to Banner Cardon Medical Center.

Inside a Mesa courtroom, the parents fight for their children to be returned

Families attend child-welfare hearings at Maricopa County Juvenile Court in Mesa.

Families attend child-welfare hearings at Maricopa County Juvenile Court in Mesa.
DIANNA M. NÁÑEZ/THE REPUBLIC

At a Mesa juvenile court hearing 10 days later, the parents got their first chance before a judge to fight for their children to be returned.

Each parent had an attorney. The parents had raised a family together but weren’t legally married.

The father’s parents sat on a bench next to a friend of the mother. Ford and Christina Lawler, with Arizona DCS Oversight Group, sat quietly listening and taking notes. Townsend, the state lawmaker, sat near the grandparents. She wanted to see whether the family’s rights had been violated.

A lawyer for the state Attorney General’s Office, representing DCS, asked the judge to close the hearing to the public.

In Arizona, we like our courts to be open, Judge Jennifer Green said. After listening to the lawyer’s reasoning — the attorney said members of the news media were in the courtroom and the family had spoken with the news media about the case, which he said wasn’t in the best interest of the children.

Attorneys for the parents said they hadn’t known of any restrictions on them speaking with media.

Green denied the request to close the hearing, but warned everyone that they could be held in contempt of court if they revealed personally-identifiable information about the children or any others mentioned in the hearing.

Attorneys for the parents said the children hadn’t seen each other since being taken from their parents’ home. The parents had only had one visit with their older children. DCS officials told the parents the toddler couldn’t make that visit because he was at a medical appointment.

The state’s attorney argued that the children shouldn’t be returned to their parents yet because they’d been hostile to DCS workers and weren’t cooperating. He said the parents had attended a DCS visit with members of Arizona DCS Oversight Group who were combative toward DCS workers. He said the grandfather had tried to videotape a meeting with DCS, and recording is not allowed to protect the privacy of the children.

DCS wanted the parents to undergo psychological evaluations.

Attorneys for the parents argued such evaluations were for people who had a history of mental-health issues, which neither parent had. They said the parents weren’t hostile, but they were living a nightmare that started with a child’s fever. They were woken up in the middle of the night, police busted down their door, brandishing guns and their three children were taken from them, attorneys said. The grandfather did what most people would think they had the right to do — record government officials.

The father had agreed to drug testing and the grandparents had agreed to background checks in hopes of becoming temporary caretakers for their grandchildren. Everyone was cooperating, the father’s attorney said.

A court-appointed guardian ad litem, who’s assigned to look after the best interests of the children, said he had one primary concern: Each child was still in a separate foster-care placement. Not only were the children separated from their parents, but this was also the first time they’d been separated from each other.

The judge asked the parties to attend an expedited hearing that afternoon.

After the hearing, in the courthouse hallway, the father held the mother in his arms. She cried and rested her hand on her pregnant belly.

Townsend spoke with the father about the road to getting his kids back.

“Why do they make it so hard?” he said with tears in his eyes. She tried to comfort him.

A lawmaker discusses parental rights

Outside the courthouse, Townsend said she didn’t know the parents personally but was disturbed by the case.

“It was brought to my attention that these parents may have been targeted by the medical community because they hadn’t vaccinated their children,” she said.

Townsend said parents who don’t vaccinate their children because of medical concerns aren’t criminals and shouldn’t be treated as such. She worried physicians were using it as a reason to refer parents to DCS.

“I think if DCS decides to use this as a factor they would be violating a parent’s right to have a personal exemption, a religious exemption and perhaps a medical exemption,” she said.

Townsend said the hearing opened her eyes to issues she will raise with fellow lawmakers. She questioned why the state’s attorney and DCS used the parent’s frustration with DCS to label the family as hostile and argue they weren’t cooperating with DCS.

“It doesn’t say anywhere that after your kids are taken, after police bust down your door, that you have to be nice to DCS to get your kids back,” she said.

A judge decides a family’s future

It was just before 2 p.m. when the parents walked back into the courtroom.

A DCS investigator, a former police officer, took the stand. She said upon visiting the hospital, doctors found the toddler had RSV, a respiratory virus that can cause serious illness in young children. She said the parents weren’t complying with DCS’ request to provide medical records for the children. She said they also weren’t following steps to regain custody of their children.

One of the parent’s attorneys asked the DCS investigator to outline specific steps the parents must follow to get their children back. The caseworker said she couldn’t remember any of them.

Attorneys for the parents claimed DCS was angry at the parents for speaking with the media and as retribution DCS officials were making it more difficult for the family to regain custody of their children. They said the child’s fever had gone down, as evidenced in medical reports.

The judge asked what was delaying placing three children with their grandparents. The state’s attorney said the grandparents still needed a home-safety check.

Green asked if that check could be expedited. The state’s attorney said DCS contracts with a company to conduct safety reviews and has no control over timelines but that it could take up to 30 days.

The guardian ad litem, representing the best interest of the children, told the judge he didn’t see why the children couldn’t be cared for by their grandparents while their parents worked with DCS to regain custody.

The judge said the removal was warranted, citing the mother’s refusal to follow the doctor’s orders. She said records showed the family had a history of domestic violence, noting an incident in which the father punched a wall.

She approved psychological evaluations for both parents, saying it would help identify the best services for the parents. She ordered DCS to complete a safety check of the grandparents’ home within four days. And she ordered the father to continue drug and alcohol testing.

She reminded the grandparents and parents that they were no longer in control of the children’s medical and health decisions. If a doctor orders treatment, the family must follow those directions, she said.

Then, she told the parents to remember that the state had them on a family-reunification plan and wants them to regain custody of their children.

After they left the courtroom, father and mother, both in tears, embraced.

The parents declined an interview with The Republic. They said they were afraid saying anything might upset DCS officials and hurt their efforts to regain custody of their children.

From left to right: Steven Isham, Karla Johnson, Lori Ford, Malinda Sherwyn, and David Watson are members of a group called Arizona DCS Oversight.

From left to right: Steven Isham, Karla Johnson, Lori Ford, Malinda Sherwyn, and David Watson are members of a group called Arizona DCS Oversight.
NICK OZA/THE REPUBLIC

Ford, with the DCS watchdog group, said this is how it goes.

“They (DCS) had no right to bust into this family’s home and take their kids,” she said in the courthouse parking lot. “But now, they (DCS) have control of this family. These children are traumatized, and all over a fever that wasn’t even a fever anymore when they went the hospital—just like the parents had said.”

She was upset with Townsend and other Arizona lawmakers who talk about holding DCS accountable but never do. Meanwhile, children and their families suffer, she said.

“They hold the purse strings, if they wanted to force DCS to make changes that would protect family’s rights they’d stop funding them,” she said.

Townsend hopes this case is an outlier, but the only way to know for sure is to review DCS child-welfare check policies, medical providers’ power over families and the DCS warrant process for removing children.

This case is more than enough reason to be concerned, she said.

“The fact that they got the warrant shows it wasn’t a matter of exigency by definition — it wasn’t something that they were rescuing this child from imminent death,” she said. “The expectation of child welfare is we’re thinking about the children in the family. We’re not talking cartels holding someone who’s been kidnapped, we’re not talking about a drug bust, we’re not talking about a flight risk. We’re not talking about any of that. This was a family with a child who has a fever. … We used a SWAT team on a family with a child with a high fever.”

The parents say they wonder if they’ll be a family again: ‘We love our children’

On March 15, the father told The Republic that DCS had placed their three children with his parents.

“We get to see them again,” he said. “Thank God.”

He still can’t shake the night police kicked down their door and entered his home with guns drawn. He still can’t believe they took all three of their children.

He said he has asked DCS why the caseworker never presented himself and showed a warrant for removal, but he hasn’t received a clear answer.

“I know people have the right not to let the police into their home,” he said. “But if the caseworker had called me or knocked, and shown me their warrant, I would’ve let them in.”

He said home security video showed police had stated they had a DCS warrant for removal, but the family didn’t hear them because they were sleeping in the back bedrooms with their sick children.

The judge’s approval of DCS’ request for psychological evaluations has created another barrier to regaining custody of their children, he said. The wait for an evaluation is months, he said.

The father sent The Republic a statement. His family is scared, he said, but they feel compelled to warn other families:

We have been through a very traumatic experience with our encounter with DCS. We would like other parents out there to know and realize the amount of power DCS has over the welfare of your children. Even though we remain confident in our innocence through our case, it is immediately an uphill struggle of what to do or not to do. Even if you do not agree with them or the process in which they follow. We thought they did not have the right to check on our children because they were getting better, from what they last heard about from us. We were in our home tending to our sick kids and did not want to be bothered in this tough time of illness.  With multiple children it is difficult to keep up their needs while they are ill, and to be bothered in the middle of the night by DCS was not something we were ready to tackle. No matter what we though was right, it turned tragic with the removal of all of our children. The process of removal in our opinion was uncalled for and we would like to see the laws/process change when dealing with expedited removal of children. Our children have sure been through a traumatizing experience and hope they have not been harmed psychologically or emotionally as we are a very happy family who love each other and would do anything for each other. We hope to see a positive outcome for our trial, but worry about what the kids have been though. We would like to see some sort of public service announcement by DCS to inform other parents out there that this could happen to them, because nobody, especially children should have to go through what we are going through. We love our children and are doing everything possible to get them back to us.

Reporter Mary Jo Pitzl contributed to this story.

 

DIANNA M. NÁÑEZ | ARIZONA REPUBLIC, Updated 1:12 p.m. EDT Mar. 25, 2019, “A couple decided not to take their feverish child to the hospital. Hours later police kicked down their door”, https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/arizona-child-welfare/2019/03/25/questions-due-process-rise-after-police-break-down-door-check-feverish-toddler/3223829002/

Tucson police officer arrested on suspicion of sexual misconduct with female suspect

 

A Tucson police officer accused of committing sexual misconduct with a woman he was investigating was arrested Sunday evening.

The Tucson Police Department’s Office of Professional Standards Unit was told on Thursday that Officer Richard Daniel committed “unlawful sexual conduct” with the woman on Jan. 13.

Daniel, a three-year veteran with the department, was arrested after detectives were able to establish probable cause, police say.

Pete Dugan, a spokesman with the Tucson Police Department, said Daniel was booked into Pima County Jail with one count of unlawful sexual conduct as a peace officer and one count of tampering with physical evidence with additional charges pending as the investigation continues.

Dugan said Daniel has been placed on administrative leave without pay and was served a notice that he would be terminated.

Police didn’t elaborate on the investigation Daniel was conducting when the incident allegedly occurred.

Dugan said the allegations against Daniel don’t reflect the rest of the department.

Perry Vandell, Arizona Republic, Jan. 21, 2019, “Tucson police officer arrested on suspicion of sexual misconduct with female suspect”, https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/arizona/2019/01/21/tucson-officer-accused-sexual-misconduct/2636481002/

How Phoenix Explains a Rise in Police Violence: It’s the Civilians’ Fault

 
 
Poder in Action, a nonprofit group in Phoenix, marks shootings by the city’s police officers on a wall map in its office. Since the photo was taken, the tally for 2018 has risen to 41.CreditCreditConor E. Ralph for The New York Times

By Richard A. Oppel Jr.,

 

PHOENIX — All Marco Zepeda, a 44-year-old blind man, wanted to do when he went inside a convenience store last June was use the bathroom.

But as he tried to find his way, the police report said, Mr. Zepeda had the misfortune of walking near a police officer using a urinal. Thinking Mr. Zepeda had come too close, the officer pushed him, according to his account. They scuffled. Mr. Zepeda was tackled after he threw a punch, the officer said.

“You just turned around and started pushing me like crazy,” Mr. Zepeda, a father of four who sells brooms from a pushcart, says on a video that captured the aftermath. “I didn’t know you were a cop.”

But rather than chalk up the scuffle to an unfortunate misunderstanding, the police upped the ante, taking Mr. Zepeda to jail.

There, he was treated like a serious criminal, charged with aggravated assault on an officer, a felony. He denies punching the officer.

Mr. Zepeda’s story illustrates what community activists say is a serious issue: The Phoenix police are unusually quick to use force, slow to back down, and make a habit of releasing selective or misleading information about what happened. That is why, the activists say, the police here have shot more civilians this year than officers in any other city of its size, by far.

Despite the Police Department’s vows to improve transparency, the city has not provided reports on officer-involved shootings and disciplinary cases that were requested by The New York Times almost four months ago.

Critics say the department has avoided confronting the issue, despite having 41 shootings so far this year, almost twice as many as last year and 11 more than the combined total for the three cities closest in size — Philadelphia, San Antonio and San Diego.

While many departments have reacted to police violence with soul-searching and an emphasis on de-escalating tense situations, some Phoenix officials blame people who they say are just too aggressive toward the police.

“I don’t think there’s a sense that there’s something wrong in the department,” said Ed Zuercher, the city manager. “The issue is, ‘What’s going on in our community in total that assaults on police officers are up, the use of weapons against police officers is up, and that police officer-involved shootings are up?’”

Critics say the Police Department cannot — or will not — substantiate such assertions. The department “makes these really biased claims against the community, and when we push back asking for the stats, they refuse to release the cases they say they’re citing,” said Viridiana Hernandez, executive director of Poder in Action, a Phoenix-based community group.

Since the early 1990s, Phoenix’s violent crime rate has declined along with the rest of the nation’s, despite ticking up in the past few years, and is on a par with that of other large cities.

Chief Jeri Williams has commissioned a study of the rise in shootings and increased officer training — though a spokeswoman did not respond to questions about what kind of training. Chief Williams said the shootings this year have had little in common with one another. “If you look at other cities across the country, they might be able to point to one geographical area, one group of people, one criminal element,” but not so in Phoenix, she said.

In Mr. Zepeda’s case, he says he was the victim. The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office declined to prosecute him, citing “no reasonable likelihood of conviction.”

Alex Andrich, in a photo provided by his family, was shot and killed by a police officer in Phoenix.
 
Alex Andrich, in a photo provided by his family, was shot and killed by a police officer in Phoenix.

After the police shot and killed Alex Andrich, on June 12, a police spokesman offered this explanation: Mr. Andrich had advanced on an officer while holding an “object” that the officer “believed was a threat.” It turned out to be the handcuffs that officers had just affixed to one of his wrists.

After an officer shot Edward Brown, leaving him a paraplegic, the police said it was self-defense: Mr. Brown had charged at an officer and tried to get his gun, even touching the barrel. But none of Mr. Brown’s D.N.A. was found on the weapon, and he had been shot in the back.

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After Mohammed Muyhamin, a schizophrenic 43-year-old, died during an arrest, the police told local news outlets that he had “assaulted” an employee at a community center where he had sought to use the bathroom. But the 128-page police report obtained by The Times described an argument over whether Mr. Muyhamin could bring his small service dog inside without a leash.

The assault described in the report was an allegation that he had “pushed past” the employee because he needed to get to the restroom.

David Chami, a lawyer for Mr. Muhaymin’s estate and eldest son, said at least one officer on the scene had previously interacted with his client and knew he had mental health problems. Officers decided to take him in on an existing warrant for drug paraphernalia, he said, forcing him to the ground as he resisted and struggled.

Mohammed Muhaymin died during an arrest.
Mohammed Muhaymin died during an arrest.

“I can’t breathe!” Mr. Muhaymin, whose post-mortem showed he was on methamphetamines, screamed. A witness cited in the medical examiner report said that one of the officers replied: “Then stop resisting.”

The medical examiner ruled his death a homicide.

In each of these cases, the police offered selective or misleading accounts of what happened.

In the Andrich case, they say they were called for trespassing and then had a “knock-down, drag-out fight,” getting one handcuff on Mr. Andrich before he broke free, injuring an officer’s knee. They tried and failed to subdue him with a Taser, they said. Minutes later, they shot him as he advanced on an officer, according to the police account.

But in a bystander’s video, Mr. Andrich can be seen walking away, briefly turning to face the officer, then seeming to turn back away when he was shot. And while the police said the officer had stepped back before he fired, the video shows him following Mr. Andrich down the sidewalk.

Louise Andrich, Mr. Andrich’s sister, said that the police were aware he had schizophrenia and that her brother had not been violent in previous interactions with officers.

“I know exactly what my brother was saying — he was saying ‘leave me alone,’” Ms. Andrich said. The police version, she added, “did not fit the narrative of who he was as a human being, but it fit the narrative they needed to tell to make it seem legitimate.”

Officers breaking up a protest in 2016 against fatal shootings of black men.CreditRoss D. Franklin/Associated Press
Officers breaking up a protest in 2016 against fatal shootings of black men.CreditRoss D. Franklin/Associated Press

As controversy over the shootings heated up this summer with protests at City Hall, the police said they were the ones under attack. Assaults against officers had jumped 45 percent during the first five months of the year, they said, and they were the largest contributing factor in officer-involved shootings.

Community groups say, though, that the police use aggravated assault charges to deflect attention from their own conduct. Under the law, any assault on an officer is automatically considered aggravated. An assault charge does not require physical contact — intentionally giving someone “reasonable apprehension of imminent physical injury” is enough.

“All the officer has to say is, ‘I thought you were going to hurt me,’” said Heather Hamel, a civil rights lawyer representing Mr. Zepeda, the blind man. “That is how you twist the narrative. Every time there is a case of police brutality and the person lives, they’re going to get hit with an aggravated assault charge.”

Mr. Brown, the man the police shot in the back, was also charged with aggravated assault on an officer.

Some politicians have taken up the Police Department’s argument. “When people get stopped, they think it is O.K. to approach the officer in a threatening way,” City Councilman Sal DiCiccio said at a hearing in June. “Of course they’re going to get shot at that point.”

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In an interview, Mr. DiCiccio faulted the city for not hiring enough police. “We have a more violent population,” he said.

By the numbers, Phoenix is about as dangerous as a typical large American city. At 7.6 violent crimes per thousand residents, Phoenix’s violent crime rate was the same as the aggregate for cities with populations over 250,000, and slightly higher than that for cities with over a million, according to F.B.I. data for 2017.

A police spokeswoman said the department did not intentionally withhold public information, but that processing requests could take time. The city does not post data on civilian complaints.

One Phoenix police officer has been shot this year. He was wounded during a traffic stop in August.

At the behest of Chief Williams, city officials have hired the National Police Foundation, a nonprofit research firm, to study the problem. The move displeased police union officials, who said it amounted to placating activists by second-guessing officers who have done nothing wrong.

The number of officer-involved shootings in Phoenix this year far surpasses the number in other cities of similar size.CreditConor E. Ralph for The New York Times
The number of officer-involved shootings in Phoenix this year far surpasses the number in other cities of similar size.CreditConor E. Ralph for The New York Times

When the Phoenix police chief Daniel Garcia was fired in 2014, he blamed two police unions that had each called for a vote of “no confidence” in him.

“Our city management needs to decide whether the Police Department is to be run by the unions, or by the police chief,” Mr. Garcia said at a news conference that led to his firing.

Mr. Garcia complained that the city’s review board, whose members are appointed by the City Council, sometimes sided with officers who committed crimes or used excessive force.

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Out of 41 cases appealed since 2014, discipline imposed by the Police Department was reduced or overturned in 27 cases, either by the review board or through settlements with the city’s own lawyers.

In 2015, the board reinstated Officer Kevin McGowan, who had been fired for stomping on the neck of an 18-year-old as he was lowering himself to the ground to surrender. The attack, which was caught on a surveillance video, knocked out three of the man’s teeth.

Last year, Officer McGowan was one of 10 officers at the fatal arrest of Mr. Muhaymin. Sgt. Mercedes Fortune, the police spokeswoman, said that Officer McGowan “was not involved in the initial contact or takedown” of Mr. Muhaymin, but that he “assisted by applying the leg restraint after the suspect was on the ground and in handcuffs.”

She did not respond to other questions about Mr. Muhaymin’s arrest and death.

Ken Crane, the president of the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association, the main police union, said that officers were not the problem in Phoenix. People should submit to police commands, he said: “We all go home safe if everybody remembers this one little word: compliance.”

Asked why there were so many more police shootings than in other large cities, Mr. Crane said Phoenix has “a lot more people that want to pull guns and knives on the cops.”

The evidence? The number of times, he said, that officers have had to shoot at someone.

Richard A. Oppel Jr., , The New York Times, “How Phoenix Explains a Rise in Police Violence: It’s the Civilians’ Fault

Phoenix man paralyzed by police shooting makes claim of brutality

Attorney Tom Horne speaks during a Sept. 24, 2018, press conference with client Edward Brown, who was was left paralyzed after being shot by a Phoenix Police officer Aug. 5, 2018. (KTAR Photo/Ali Vetnar)

https://omny.fm/shows/ktar-reporter-audio/edward-brown-shooting/embed?style=cover

PHOENIX — On Aug. 5, 36-year-old Edward Brown was shot in the back by a Phoenix Police officer, leaving him paralyzed.

At a press conference Monday, Brown, who is black, claimed he was a victim of police brutality and excessive force because of his race.

Brown was joined by his attorney, former Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne, and Phoenix civil rights activist Rev. Jarrett Maupin.

The police report on the incident indicated that Brown was shot after attempting to grab an officer’s gun near Glenrosa and 22nd avenues after police attempted to stop him when they received a call for suspicious activity involving drugs.

Brown and his representatives said there are errors and inconsistencies in the police description of the shooting.

The report said Brown ran through the yards of several homes before reaching a fence he couldn’t hop over. When the officer drew his gun from about 20 feet away, the report said, Brown ran at the officer.

The report said as Brown approached the officer he “swiped” at the gun, and the officer indicated he felt the tip of his gun get hit. That is when he stepped back and fired, striking Brown one time.

Brown admitted to running from police because he has a felony warrant, according to the report. However, the report said, Brown denied running toward the officer or attempting to grab his gun. He also indicated the marijuana was planted by the officer.

“If Edward had been trying to take a gun from the police officer as has been alleged in the publicity that has come from the police department, he would have been shot in the front, not in the back,” Horne said during the press conference.

He was charged with aggravated assault on an officer and possession of marijuana.

Maupin displayed a medical marijuana card that he said belonged to Brown and was in effect at the time of the shooting.

Brown’s family plans to hold a protest outside City Hall on Friday night. Brown wants all charges dropped and is planning a lawsuit.

When reached, the Phoenix Police Department said it does not comment on cases pending litigation.

ALI VETNAR, SEPTEMBER 24, 2018, “Phoenix man paralyzed by police shooting makes claim of brutality”, http://ktar.com/story/2232585/phoenix-man-paralyzed-by-police-shooting-makes-claim-of-brutality/

FBI reviewing arrest in Arizona, where officers beat man

The evaluation in Mesa, Arizona, includes a possible civil rights violation by police for punching a man after he refused to sit down.
 / Updated 
By Phil Helsel

Editor’s Note (Aug. 30, 2018, 6 p.m.): The name of a 15-year-old who was arrested on suspicion of armed robbery was removed from this article. It is the policy of NBC News not to identify minors who are charged with crimes.

The FBI will investigate the use of force by police in two arrests in Mesa, Arizona, including one in which a man was punched by officers who were responding to a complaint about another man, for possible civil rights violations, police said Wednesday.

The federal agency informed the Mesa Police Department on Tuesday about the review, which included the arrest of Robert Johnson, who was seen in surveillance video being punched by police in a May 23 encounter.

The other case centers on the arrest of a 15-year-old boy who the Mesa Police Department said was arrested on suspicion of armed robbery on May 16. Body camera video appears to show an officer threaten to “f— you up” and place a foot near the back of his neck when the boy was on the ground and handcuffed.

The development comes days after the Scottsdale Police Department, which was called in to conduct the initial investigation, determined that the use of force by officers in Johnson’s arrest was justified and recommended no criminal charges.

Johnson, 35, was punched and arrested after police responded to a report of a domestic disturbance involving another man who had allegedly tried to force his way into an ex-girlfriend’s apartment. An officer wrote in a report that Johnson refused a request to sit down, and that the officer believed he was preparing for a fight.

Charges against Johnson were later dismissed by a judge at the request of prosecutors.

Johnson’s attorney, Benjamin Taylor, said in a statement Wednesday that he was pleased the FBI was looking into the use of force in the incident, which he called a case of police brutality.

“We hope that the FBI will do a fair investigation and help clean up the Mesa Police Department’s culture of hurting citizens and give justice to Mr. Robert Johnson,” Taylor said in a statement.

A Mesa police public information officer said in an email that an internal investigation into Johnson’s arrest is continuing, and the officers involved have been placed on administrative leave.

Scottsdale police said in a statement Monday that in addition to surveillance video, officers’ body camera videos “provided additional angles and audio that clarified what actually occurred.”

“Based on the totality of the circumstances and all of the evidence in this case, our final determination is that no criminal charges are warranted against the involved officers as the use of force was legally authorized and justified under Arizona State Law,” Scottsdale police said.

They added that the case was presented to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, which agreed with the conclusion.

Taylor said he intends to file a civil lawsuit.

Prosecutors on Aug, 17 determined that no charges would be filed against the officers in the 15-year-old’s arrest, saying state law permits use of reasonable force to effect an arrest.

The probe looked at possible aggravated assault because when a “mandibular,” or jawline, pressure point was used the suspect was in handcuffs, the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office said. The 15-year-old is being prosecuted as an adult, the Arizona Republic reported.

The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office said it made no determination whether the force used in that arrest complied with department policies.

Phil Helsel, NBCNews, “FBI reviewing arrest in Arizona, where officers beat man”, https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/fbi-reviewing-arrest-arizona-where-officers-beat-man-n904986