Phoenix Police Chief Apologizes for Mistreatment of Black Family

The police chief from the Phoenix Police Department has issued an apology after a video went viral that showed how officers handled two suspects after their 4-year-old allegedly stole from a dollar store.The viral video, which was posted by Occupy Democrats on social media on June 13, shows a police officer yelling at the suspects to “get the [expletive] out the car” with his gun pointing at the vehicle. Another officer can be heard yelling at the suspects, “You’re gonna get shot.” A few seconds later, an officer can be heard screaming, “I’m going to put a [expletive] cap right in your [expletive] head.”While detaining the male suspect, who is Black, the white officer can be heard shouting at the man that he is not complying with his orders, despite the man spreading his feet like he was asked.“When I tell you to do something you [expletive] do it!” the police officer can be heard saying to the Black male.

“I am, I’m complying with everything sir,” the Black male can be heard saying. “Great cuz I want you to shut your mouth!” the officer responds. A few seconds later, the video pans over to a woman, who is also Black, speaking with another officer telling him she cannot put her baby down and that the concrete surface of the parking lot is too hot for the child. She can also be heard telling the officer she is pregnant. The officer then asks if the woman is okay before another officer approaches her and begins cursing at her.

“When I tell you to [expletive] put your hands up, you put your [expletive] hands up,” the officer can be heard saying to the woman, who is holding her child. In a statement posted to Facebook on June 15, the Phoenix Police Department stated that on May 27, it had received a call for assistance from a store manager reporting a shoplifting incident at the store. While the officers were investigating the initial report, the store manager alerted the Police Department to a second shoplifting and reported that the people from the incident were getting into their car in the parking lot.When the officer approached the vehicle, a female suspect reportedly dropped an item before getting into the car and driving away. A few minutes later, the vehicle stopped and dropped off a woman before driving away. The woman reportedly had three misdemeanor warrants out for her arrest and was booked for the outstanding warrants, according to authorities. Police found the vehicle that dropped off the woman at an apartment complex a mile away, where a Black man and a Black woman were arrested.

The man told an officer that he stole a package of underwear from the dollar store and threw them out the window. One of the women told an officer that the woman she had dropped off was her aunt, who had escorted her child inside the store. She admitted that she saw the child walk out of the store with a doll in her hand and said she believed it was stolen because they did not have any money. The store manager declined to press charges and no one was arrested for the incident, police said. The Phoenix Police Department said they were notified of the video on June 11 and commented that the officers in the video displayed “extremely offensive and unprofessional language and actions by officers during the arrests.” Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams placed the officers on assigned desk duty while the incident is under investigation. Williams also posted a video to the department’s Facebook page on the same day, stating that she is “disturbed by the language and the actions” of the officers.

“I assure you that this incident is not representative of the majority of Phoenix Police officers who serve this city,” Williams said. “I do want you to know that I expect our employees to maintain their professionalism and proper training at all times.”

The man and woman in the video have been identified as Dravon Ames and Iesha Harper, CBS This Morning reported. The couple told the news station that the incident has left the family shaken and Ames has been unable to sleep. The couple told the new station they have filed a $10 million lawsuit over the incident.

"It hurts a man's pride if you can't protect your family, to hear your daughter screaming and you can't do nothing about it," Ames told CBS This Morning. Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego released a statement on Twitter on June 15 stating that she is “deeply sorry” for what the family went through and apologized to the community. She said all officers will be made to wear body cameras by August.

“I, like many others, am sick over what I have seen in the video depicting Phoenix police interacting with a family and young children,” Gallego wrote. “It was completely inappropriate and clearly unprofessional. There is no situation in which this behavior is ever close to acceptable.”

About the Author

Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in the various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.