Phoenix Law Enforcement Association

Police Officers Have Due Process Rights Too

The Phoenix Law Enforcement Association, PLEA, represents approximately 2500 rank and file Phoenix Police Officers and Detectives including the officers who were involved in an incident which has now become national news due to a privately filmed video which was released to the media.  As is par for the course, our officers have already been tried and convicted in the court of public opinion without the benefit of their side of the story being known up front when the video was released to local media outlets.

PLEA isn’t making excuses for the officers’ actions, but they, like every other person who lives in America, have due process rights, which includes a thorough investigation of the facts of what occurred.  That would include what was known to them at the time they initiated contact with the family in the parking lot of the apartment complex where the video was filmed, not what they learned or found out afterwards.

This statement is based on the same information which has already been released by the Media and the Phoenix Police Department and has been circulated on the internet via news media and social media including Facebook, as the internal administrative investigation being conducted by the Phoenix Police Department’s Professional Standards Bureau has just started.  PLEA has reviewed the cellphone videos, the Phoenix Police Department Incident Report written by officers who initially responded to the Dollar Store, and the surveillance video from the Dollar Store, which was released by the Phoenix Police Department.

First, we would like to address the downright false allegations and blatant lies being promoted regarding officers’ intentionally deactivating body worn cameras.

  • The Phoenix Police Department has had Body Worn Cameras, BWCs, for several years through a program that started in the Maryvale-Estrella Mountain Precinct.
  • The program was expanded a couple of years ago to additional precincts, but not every officer was issued one.
  • The Phoenix City Council approved funding to purchase additional BWCs, however, the process follows City guidelines and policies regarding purchases of services and goods, whether they are janitorial services, office supplies, vehicles, power tools, firearms, ammunition, etc.  Due to the nature of the process, it takes time to identify potential vendors, then review and evaluate their respective products before reaching a decision.
  • During the Request for Purchase, RFP process, there was a noted issue with the VieVue BWC, which the Department had been using.  Taser International, now known as Axon, a competitor in the process, eventually purchased VieVue and became the vendor for the BWCs which are now being issued to officers. 
  •  While the BWCs are relatively inexpensive, by comparison, the support staff and infrastructure required to safely and securely transfer and store the data are the most expensive portion of the contract.
  • Issuing approximately 1200 BWCs to officers, including those who have never used them, takes time as they must undergo training regarding policies and procedures in addition to learning how to operate the camera and docking them to download the data and upload it to our secure servers.
  • To provide some perspective, a six-minute high definition video filmed on an iPhone consumes 637 MB of data, so imagine the amount of data from one officer recording a 20-minute traffic stop or a 30-minute radio call.
  • The Phoenix Police Department has never had dashboard mounted cameras in marked patrol vehicles and the officers involved in this incident were not wearing BWCs because their precinct hadn’t issued them.  Yet there is information circulating on Facebook that the officers failed to activate dash and body cameras in an attempt to cover-up their actions.
  • There is a misconception that BWCs capture everything and will tell a complete story of what occurred at a scene.  One camera doesn’t tell the whole story which is why when an NFL Official’s call is challenged, they rely on footage taken from multiple camera angles before rendering judgement.  Even in incidents where officers have BWCs, the cameras have limitations.
  • BWCs can only capture what is in the field of view based on the officer’s position in relation to the incident
  • BWCs don’t have the same field of view as an officer’s eyes
  • BWCs can’t pick up the subtle movements and queues officers are trained to recognize when someone may decide to fight or flee from them, such as tensing up, or a shift in weight.
  • As is the case with NFL Officials, BWCs have proven what officers originally said occurred during the incident were true statements.

Regarding the stop and subsequent detention of Dravon Ames and Iesha Harper, there are concerns about officers’ actions and language.  At the time of contact, there were multiple unknowns and officers reacted to Ames’ and Harper’s actions based on their training and experience.  Officers are trained to watch people’s hands and there is scientific proof that it only takes .25 of a second for a determined suspect to draw a firearm and shoot an officer; women can be just as dangerous as men.  A thorough investigation and full due process would allow a full assessment of the facts, including whether all hands were visible at all times.

ABC15 News reported “ABC15 obtained a copy of the full police report and reported major omissions and differences between the officer’s account and the witness videos.”  When police reports are authored, they are used to document incidents and also serve to refresh officers’ recollection of the incident in the event the case goes to court.   There are other facts that will emerge once the officers have been afforded due process.

  • Reports are generally written based on the officer’s general recollection of the incident and aren’t a word for word account of what occurred.
  • It is physically impossible to remember every detail of a particular encounter due to how the brain processes and retains information, particularly during stressful incidents and this has been scientifically proven and documented by psychologists and psychiatrists who have interviewed officers involved in critical incidents and similar situations.
  • Officers usually take notes during interviews with victims, witnesses, and suspects and will incorporate those notes into a more detailed report at a later time.
  • Even if an officer records an interview, reference to the interview in their report is normally a summary of that interview, not a complete transcription and is usually prefaced by verbiage similar to “I conducted an interview of __________ __________, which was digitally recorded and impounded.  The following is a summary of that interview.  For additional details and information, refer to the listed impounded copy of the recording.
  • When multiple officers are involved in an incident, normally, one officer will write an original report which encompasses the entire event, and will include type of crime, date, time and location, victims, witnesses, suspects, property and evidence and other pertinent information.  Their narrative may include a list of officers and supervisors involved in the incident.
  • The other officers will normally write a supplemental report documenting their specific involvement in the incident.
  • While a specific officer may be listed on the CAD incident printout, they may not have had any direct involvement in the actual incident.  They might have responded as a backup unit and never made it to the scene because things were under control before they arrived and went back into service, or they may have been on a perimeter position for containment purposes.  Others may have not seen or heard what was going on based on their proximity to the scene.
  • Even though multiple officers may have been on the scene and directly involved, their recollections of the incident may vary based on what they were doing at the time as everyone’s perception is based on what they saw and/or heard.  Once again, this is due to how the mind processes and records information and is not an indication or proof of deception.  Discrepancies will occur.

PLEA takes issue with people demanding that we kick the involved officers out of PLEA and not assist them in securing due process.  As previously mentioned, our officers have due process rights including those provided to ALL U.S. citizens, which fall under the United States Constitution including the presumption of innocence until proven guilty.  Let’s wait for all of the facts before rushing to judgement.