City Hall

Councilman Michael Johnson's Phoenix Police Altercation Taken Seriously Because of "Who He Is," PPD Says

An unnamed Phoenix police officer may have messed with the wrong bull.

The Phoenix City Council will hold an executive session on Monday to try to get to the bottom of an incident this morning, where one of its members was handcuffed and thrown to the ground by a Phoenix police officer -- whom the Phoenix Police Department is refusing to identify -- as the councilman was trying to assist a neighbor whose house was on fire.

Phoenix City Councilman Michael Johnson says he's "humiliated and in complete disbelief of what just transpired" and claims he was only acting in the interest of his neighbor when he was roughed up by the Phoenix officer early this morning.

Johnson, a 20-year veteran of the Phoenix Police Department before serving in the City Council, issued a statement, which was read during a press conference at City Hall this morning. Jonnson says he awoke early this morning to fire trucks and ambulances, and when he looked outside, he saw his neighbor's house engulfed in flames.

Johnson says he rushed outside, where he was met by a member of the Phoenix Fire Department responding to the blaze.

Johnson asked the fire battalion chief if he could talk to his neighbor to find out if he was all right and that he was granted permission to enter the fire scene. That's when Johnson says he was confronted by the unnamed officer and the alleged abuse of power took place.

"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," Johnson says in his statement. "After repeated requests to talk to the officer's supervisor, I was told they don't have a supervisor on scene, and 'we don't do it like that out here.' Instead, I was thrown on the ground and handcuffed -- face down -- in the middle of my street."

Johnson insists that he was neither confrontational or disrespectful.

Other officers tried to get the unnamed officer to "calm down," but the overzealous cop threatened Johnson, saying he would be "dragged across the street to the curb," Johnson claims.

Johnson says it was only thanks to firefighters on the scene that he wasn't dragged across the street.

Calls to Johnson's office were not immediately returned.

Phoenix City Councilwoman Peggy Neely, as well as City Manager David Cavazos and Vice Mayor Michael Nowakowski, have agreed to hold an executive session of the Phoenix City Council on Monday to try to "fully understand the implications surrounding what initially appears to be an abuse of authority."

For years, Johnson says, he's heard of police harassment and brutality, and if the same thing happened to any other citizen, he would probably be in jail right now for "being a good Samaritan."

Phoenix police officials agree that if this had been your typical Joe Schmo, the incident probably would have gone unnoticed by the media.

"We're taking this seriously because of who he is," says Phoenix police spokesman Trent Crump. "We're talking about a prominent member of the community."

Lesson of the day from the PPD: Unless you hold some political clout, getting roughed up by the cops is gonna float right under the radar.

Johnson says he plans to use the incident to bring about change in the business-as-usual way the PPD operates.

"I plan to sit down with our chief and discuss the treatment of residents by our police," Johnson says. "I'm sure this doesn't happen all the time, but it happens enough. And it happens to people who can't say something or don't know who they can turn to."

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James King
Contact: James King