Michael Johnson Smackdown: Phoenix City Council Meeting Going On About Cop's Manhandling of Black Councilman
We broke the news last Friday of Phoenix city Councilman Michael Johnson's unfortunate run-in with a Phoenix police officer at the scene of a residential fire in his neighborhood.
It's been the talk of the town, and the Phoenix City Council is meeting at this hour in closed session to discuss what happened, and what it should (and can) do about it.
Johnson himself isn't attending.
The young officer, Brian Authement, threw the councilman (a retired cop who recently had undergone cancer surgery) to the street face-first and handcuffed him, apparently for "disobeying" orders not to go any closer to the burning home.
Authement is a former U.S. Marine, who was 22 when a military magazine published the 2006 photo of him and his companion in Iraq (at left).
The officer apparently lost his cool with Councilman Johnson seconds after Phoenix fire battalion Chief Frank Cheatham gave Johnson permission to check on the welfare of his neighbor (the owner of the home), a disabled man who escaped the flames without injury.
(In our original blog post on the incident, we repeated incorrect information told us by two law-enforcement sources. They said separately that Johnson had identified himself to the officer as a councilman and retired cop, to which Authement responded with a vulgarity. But in a written statement released Friday afternoon, Johnson said, "The officer didn't know that I was a Phoenix City Councilman or that I retired from the Police Department after 20 years of service. Regardless, that shouldn't have mattered.")
Authement has sparked an already-volatile situation with an African-American city official that won't go away overnight.
National media have been calling here begging for crumbs (and cell phone numbers).
We are very curious about how the incident will play out locally, politically speaking. Check out this quirky dynamic:
Those who follow Phoenix city politics know that the Phoenix Police Department administration (particularly Public Safety Manager, formerly called Police Chief, Jack Harris) has been at war with the police union (the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association, or PLEA) and its Joe Arpaio-groupie-of-a-president Mark Spencer.
Councilman Johnson has been in PLEA's corner more often than not in the acrimonious debate, even though he is a former colleague of Chief Harris'.
But PLEA's leaders have remained silent (at least publicly) since the councilman's run-in with the short-fused young officer.
As this story develops -- and it will -- watch Spencer and his minions come up with a nice little two-step as they try to position themselves so as not to lose face with the troops, and not to lose a political ally in Johnson.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Phoenix New Times' biggest stories.