Protests are expected Tuesday at what officials are calling a “community listening session” in Phoenix over fallout from a video of police officers confronting a couple and their two small children. Cell phone video from May 27 shows officers cursing and pointing guns at Dravon Ames and Iesha Harper, threatening to shoot, after responding to a report of shoplifting.
The Phoenix Police Department has now released surveillance footage of the alleged shoplifting that led to the tense standoff. It appears to back up their claims that Ames stole underwear and his four-year-old daughter took a doll from a nearby dollar store.
Although the Phoenix mayor and police chief have apologized for their officers’ actions, the family says justice has not been served.
“The officers are still working. It’s a slap in the face. It’s like putting lemon juice on an open wound,” Ames said.
“It was very terrifying for me and my children,” Harper added. “I always told my daughters to depend on the police if something’s happening, but she had to find out herself that they cannot depend on the police.”
On Monday, Police Chief Jeri Williams called her officers’ actions egregious but denied the family’s claim that the shoplifting was an accident.
“This is more than about just about a doll. There were adults who went to that business and store, and they committed a theft,” Williams said.
The incident once again puts a focus on police and community relations here in Phoenix. Back in February, CBS News asked a Phoenix detective and sergeant whether they think there’s a disconnect with the public. Detective Melissa Borquez said, “I don’t think there’s a rift. There might be a little misunderstanding.”
Asked what the difference is between a misunderstanding and a disconnect, Detective Sgt. Robert Vasquez said, “People forming their own opinions of police officers based on what they’ve heard or what they’ve seen. And so they pit us all in the same little clump without really ever having an experience of their own to judge us.”
Roland Harris says it’s a problem of the department’s own making. Phoenix police shot and killed his son Jacob in January for suspicion of armed robbery. Harris doesn’t believe the officers’ version of events.
“A lot of people will be upset. Because their loved ones are being killed by the police and brutalized by the police and no one’s doing anything,” Harris said.
The police union released a statement suggesting that there has been a rush to judgment in this case. It is urging the public not to jump to conclusions until an investigation is complete. After tonight’s protest at the community meeting, the family plans to join several other families and communities for more protests tomorrow at a city council meeting to demand justice.