By Monica Alonzo
By Stephen Lemons
By Jason P. Woodbury
By Dulce Paloma Baltazar Pedraza
By Ray Stern
By Pete Kotz
By Monica Alonzo
By New Times
Chief Ortega declined to comment.
Moving from the specifics of a particular shooting to the bigger picture, deputy city manager Manion said in the report that Reverend Tillman had little cause for concern regarding the treatment of blacks by Ortega's officers.
"I asked the police department to prepare a summary for me of the citizens involved in shooting fatalities with the police over the last several years," wrote Manion. "These statistics show that the number of police fatal shootings are relatively few in number . . . . The statistics also document that minorities do not comprise a disproportionate number of the incidents compared to the demographics of the community, and the number of police responses involving minorities."
The self-serving statistics in this section of the report cannot be blamed on Chief Ortega. Comprehensive data from Major Gerd J. Kurtenbach, Internal Affairs Bureau commander, was passed on to Manion by Ortega, but the deputy city manager isolated only those numbers that made his point, ignoring obvious and damaging statistics.
In the final report, Manion stated that of the nineteen police-shooting fatalities since 1982, only one black was killed. So the total number of blacks shot to death was merely 5.3 percent in a city where blacks historically have constituted between 3 and 4 percent of the population.
A public records request by New Times, however, unearthed all working papers supplied to Manion by the police.
On the very page where Manion found the statistic--only one black shot and killed from 1982 to 1990--to advance his argument, there were numbers that told a different story.
Of all the instances of police officers firing their guns, 17 percent involved shootings at blacks. From 1978 to 1990, Phoenix officers have fired their weapons 192 times. The target on 33 of those occasions was black.
In Phoenix, Afro-Americans are shot at by police at a rate (17 percent) nearly five times their population base.
Manion went on to state in the report that of all complaints lodged against the police, only 7.4 percent came from blacks. This is an artificial number. It is true enough when you look at all complaints about police (i.e., delay in responding to a call, traffic tickets, et cetera).
But when you consider only excessive-force complaints, and after all, police brutality was the issue on the table, black complaints compose 22 percent of the total.
Manion was adamant that there was absolutely no effort on the city's part to manipulate the numbers.
"I looked at the stats and didn't see an unusual pattern," said Manion. "Part of the reason I focused on fatalities [instead of all shootings] was that the larger comparison we did with other cities also had to do with fatalities. That's how they did their numbers. I wasn't trying to hide anything. Clearly the information was available and we weren't trying to hide anything."
Throughout the entire report, there is not a single instance where the city manager concedes that police behavior might have been inappropriate. Sometimes the spin put on potentially embarrassing situations is ingenious in its cold-blooded efficiency.
Tillman's complaint that the police badly handled Ric Rankins' death is a case in point. A crack abuser and bad-check artist, Rankins ended up in a violent confrontation with supermarket employees when the store manager challenged the black man over his rash of bounced checks. When Officer Reynolds Nejo and his partner arrived on the scene, they discovered Rankins on the ground, semicomatose, his arms and legs tied to his body.
Reverend Tillman contends the officers should have promptly administered CPR and summoned paramedics. Instead, police interviewed witnesses, cut the ropes off Rankins, handcuffed the victim and, with one officer under each of Rankins' arms, dragged the limp Rankins across the parking lot, braced him against their squad car, and finally tumbled him into the back seat. Medical help failed to arrive, according to the city's own records, until fourteen minutes after the police pulled into the parking lot.
In response to the minister's complaint that medical attention should have been given Rankins at once, Chief Ortega stated sweetly in the report, "Due to the fact it was raining, the officers decided to place Rankins in the rear of their police vehicle."
This explanation ignores the statements given under oath at a preliminary hearing in which paramedics testified to the cavalier treatment of Rankins by the police and in which Officer Nejo admitted that he thought the dying black man was faking his injuries to avoid arrest.
To focus too intently upon the deception and misdirection in the report of Chief Ortega and city manager Fairbanks, however, would cause you to miss the point of the meeting on March 29.
The fact of the matter is that Reverend Tillman was not as obsessed with this trail of bureaucratic malfeasance as he was with getting his considerable foot in the door.
Oscar Tillman did not care about the particulars. Not really.
Yes, of course, there may be something terribly wrong with the Johnny Ray King shooting. But it is only one case.
And the report's statistics about police shootings may have been grossly misleading.
What of it?
After a lifetime as a black cop, civil rights leader and Baptist minister, Tillman does not need a statistical analysis to support his belief that blacks are more likely to be victims of police brutality than whites.