At one point in the footage, officers complained about changes in police department practices and policies:
OFFICER 1: We actually want to do the job like we did 10, 15 years ago. But it’s never going to come back. If they ever came back and they said, ‘Guys, just f—ing kick some f—ing ass out there and reduce crime’ …
OFFICER 2: Yeah.
OFFICER 1: I’d say, ‘Okay.’
OFFICER 2: So you won’t be in f—ing handcuffs doing your job. Saying okay, let’s go watch some bodycam video to see just in case he struck somebody. I remember back when it was so much nicer.
OFFICER 1: I think this [body camera] has taken the job down the drain.
OFFICER 2: Yep.
OFFICER 1: If I had to pick just one thing, there’s others, but it’s this.
OFFICER 3: It’s taken away so much of our discretion to be cool with people with like little bags of dope and stuff and we would grind it into the ground and go, ‘Hey.’
OFFICER 2: Or the meth pipe?
OFFICER 3: Yeah, the pipe.
OFFICER 1: It feels like I’m listening to myself.
These officers represent the same department accused of awarding “challenge coins” for shooting a protester in the groin on Aug. 22, 2017. The coins allegedly contained the phrases: “GOOD NIGHT LEFT NUT” and “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN ONE NUT AT A TIME.” Police Chief Jeri Williams and City Manager Ed Zuercher condemned the coins in a joint statement on Feb. 6. “I not only expect more, but demand more from my officers,” Williams said, adding the coin language is being investigated as hate speech. Zuercher said in the statement: “We do not accept hate speech at the city of Phoenix. It is unacceptable and we must have an independent look at these disturbing allegations so we can take appropriate action.”
It’s hard to take the officials’ stand against hate speech seriously considering the Phoenix Police Department together with the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office tried to build a criminal case that 18 demonstrators supporting the Black Lives Matter movement should be prosecuted as a street gang. Although prosecutors eventually dismissed the charges, their initial prosecutorial efforts relied on Arizona statutes that loosely classify a street gang based on self-proclamation, witness statements, electronic correspondence, paraphernalia, tattoos, and colors of clothing, ABC 15 reported. Because demonstrators were accused of shouting “all cops are bastards,” prosecutors argued that was a self-proclamation and their choice of all-black attire met the clothing requirement, ABC 15 reported.
Amy Kaper, a graduate student accused of being a gang member, told the news station the only other protester she knew was her boyfriend, with whom she attended the rally. “It’s scary,” she said. “It feels like totalitarianism. It feels like we’re not allowed to speak out about our rights. And unless you’re on the side [police are] on, they’re going to arrest you and try to ruin your life.”
In response to an ABC 15 request for comment, the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office responded with this statement:
On October 27, 2020, a Maricopa County Grand Jury issued indictments on fifteen individuals for incidents that occurred on October 17, 2020. The indictment is for several crimes, including conspiracy to commit assault, riot, and assisting a criminal street gang. The attached Grand Jury Indictment outlines all charges.
While some will attempt to describe these defendants as “protestors,” a grand jury found probable cause to *charge this group with crimes, including the planning of violence.
Ethical rules regarding trial publicity prohibit MCAO from trying this case in the media or saying anything that might influence a jury in these cases. Therefore, we cannot provide details about the evidence that was presented to the grand jury.
The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office is responsible for felony criminal prosecution in Maricopa County. This office does not condone or support political prosecution of any kind and we encourage members of this community to lawfully exercise their first amendment rights regardless of the cause.
As County Attorney Adel has publicly stated numerous times, MCAO is committed to protecting the safety of everyone in this community, law enforcement and demonstrators alike. While we fully support the rights of everyone to exercise their first amendment rights, we will not allow violence to take over our streets.
*A charge in a crime is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.
The district attorney’s office later said in a statement on Twitter Friday that it is dismissing the case and “re-evaluating the evidence … MCAO remains committed to holding those who committed criminal acts in this event responsible,” the office tweeted.