Officer Fiendly

Several months ago, after writing a column about a black motorist who claimed he had been harassed by two Scottsdale police officers, I received a letter from the Scottsdale Police Department.

The document was offered as "an open letter to your readers." In the interest of furthering relations between police and citizens, I'm happy to oblige by publicizing it.

Signed by Police Chief Michael J. Heidingsfield, the letter declares that there are "at least 12 fundamental questions that need to be asked and answered. These questions should be applicable to each and every American Police Agency."

Some of the questions:
* "Has your police department been willing to examine the entirety of its inner workings by comparing the local way of doing business with the most progressive national standards of the law enforcement industry?"

* "Does your local police agency have a simple, easily understood statement of values that are known throughout the organization and embody the fundamental notions of ethical behavior and principled decision-making?"

* "Has your police department been rigorous in its efforts to diversify the organization in order to mirror the community at large and instill broad confidence in the policing services being delivered?"

* "Has your police department embraced the concepts of community policing that imply openness, citizen partnership and joint responsibility for public safety and is the department recognized for its success?"

* "Does the leadership of your local police agency consistently and passionately carry the message to the community and its police officers that disparate treatment, heavy handedness and racism are absolutely intolerable?"

* "Is the maintenance of dignity and respect a theme that is recurrent throughout the police department's organizational culture?"

* "Does your impression and assessment of your community's police officers include characterizations such as compassionate, skilled, proud and willing to serve, fair, committed to the principles of good public safety, available and open?

"When you as a citizen can answer 'yes' to these questions, then that is a dramatic statement about a community's relationship with its police department--one that speaks of properly placed confidence, mutual respect, vigilance and reassurance."

Stirring stuff. And the Scottsdale Police Department, it appears, is more than able. "The Scottsdale Police Department is gratified to say in our estimation that on our report card the answer to each of those twelve questions is yes--And our hope is that that assessment means as much to you as it does to us--We are proud to be a nationally accredited police agency with a 94% approval rating from the community. Thank you for allowing us to serve."

Well, hooray for the Scottsdale Police Department, even if it does have trouble writing grammatical sentences.

Meanwhile, back here on planet Earth, people are unconvinced. Among them is the U.S. Department of Justice, which has asked the FBI to investigate allegations of brutality by the Scottsdale PD.

Equally unconvinced is anyone who reads the daily newspapers. A recent trial in Maricopa County Superior Court included testimony that the Scottsdale PD maintains habits that are markedly racist--a charge the department denied when I wrote about that black motorist months ago. The jury awarded a former Latino Scottsdale cop $100,000.

Those of you who fret about racism may be relieved to know that Scottsdale police are equal-opportunity bullies--it's not just black or brown people they pick on.

Ask Shawn Casey, who is white, and John Power, who is of mixed race.
On March 12 of last year, Casey and Power were in the Scottsdale apartment they shared at a complex called Sycamore Creek. They had four guests, including Casey's sister and her 7-year-old daughter. They had just had dinner in a restaurant. According to Casey and Power, the child was asleep, so the music they had been playing was at a low volume.

Around 11 p.m., a man knocked on the door of the apartment. He was Robert Rucker, an off-duty Scottsdale police officer who was also the night monitor at Sycamore Creek. He said he had received a complaint about the music coming from the apartment. Rucker was wearing sweats and didn't have any identification. Casey told him he didn't think the noise level was high. Rucker threatened to call the police if Casey didn't close his patio door. Casey told him to go ahead and call the cops.

Rucker did.
The two on-duty cops who showed up were Erik Rasmussen and Paul Thompson. One of Casey's and Power's guests answered the door. The cops asked for his identification. Casey told him not to show it to them, saying, "I'm the resident here. I'll talk to them."

What happened next has left such a mark on Casey that he finds it hard to sit still when he talks about it. "Rasmussen yelled, 'You wanna bet?' and rushed at me. I just stood there, shocked. He wrestled me to the floor of my living room. Next thing I knew, both cops were carrying me outside, one holding my arms behind my back, the other grabbing my legs. They threw me face-first into the concrete. My face was bleeding."

He yelled, "You're hurting me! You can't do this! Why are you doing this? I have rights!"

Next Page »
My Voice Nation Help
Phoenix Concert Tickets