The Phoenix police union has set its sights on Councilman Carlos Garcia. The activist-turned-lawmaker wore a T-shirt that read "Stop Police Brutality" to the first City Council meeting since the video of Phoenix police officers threatening to shoot a young black couple in front of their two children brought national attention to the Phoenix police department.
In a Facebook post, the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association, or PLEA, took aim at Garcia for his previous role as the director of Puente, a grassroots human rights movement, and shared a photo of Garcia being arrested by Phoenix police at a protest. Several of the commenters responded to PLEA's post with racism, calling Garcia a "token member" the council needed to "brown up the place" and suggesting he is funded by cartels — a comment that PLEA liked.
The June 19 meeting where Garcia wore the "End Police Brutality" shirt was interrupted by community members who demanded the council take action to reform the city's troubled police department, which has also come under scrutiny as of late for a deluge of racist, anti-Muslim Facebook posts from Phoenix officers.
Garcia voted to approve the budget, but only after Mayor Kate Gallego agreed to call a special meeting to discuss a potential committee to implement previous recommendations to improve police transparency and accountability. Garcia's proposed committee would aim to enact stalled recommendations, including a civilian review board. A special policy meeting has been scheduled for 2:30 p.m. today to discuss a civilian review board, early intervention training, and other possible reforms.
"Does he serve the best interests of the people who reside in the nation's fifth largest and fastest growing city?" PLEA asked in the post, criticizing the District 8 representative for his activism against Senate Bill 1070, a controversial immigration law that allows police to question people about their immigration status.
PLEA also shared a statement from Garcia that they apparently found offensive: "Like many of you, watching the latest video of Phoenix police officers conduct during a traffic stop is upsetting and unacceptable. ... For many in our communities, we know that this is nothing new.
"From the recent reports of racist posts on social media to record-breaking deaths of our residents at the hands of our police officers — this points towards deeper issues," Garcia wrote. "As a member of the City Council, I pledge to push for action. We need solutions from top to bottom inside of our police department."
Last year, Phoenix police officers shot far more people than any other law enforcement agency in the United States. Phoenix police shot at people 44 times last year. The NYPD shot at people 23 times. The NYPD has nearly 40,000 police officers. Phoenix has roughly 3,000 officers.
Other responses to PLEA's post accused Garcia of being a terrorist, being funded by George Soros, and only getting elected because of "illegals voting." Another comment, while jumbled and confusing, appeared to call for harming Garcia: "Can we get toxic him or die he have to get voted out!!!"
It's not the first time Garcia has faced racist vitriol for his background as a Mexican-American immigrant who protested former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, and for his record as an outspoken civil rights activist.
After the Arizona Republic endorsed Garcia, members of a Facebook group named Angel Families United called for his death.
"I know he will fight for sanctuary policies. He is not American born. We need TRUE BLOODED AMERICANS running AMERICAN cities and states," wrote an administrator for the ground alongside a link to the Republic's endorsement.
"Send the bastard back to Mexico!!!" responded one member of the group.
"Die soon traitor," said another.
"Amen! Shoot this focker!" a different user echoed.
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The group did not respond to a Facebook message seeking comment, though a read receipt indicates that an administrator for the group saw a message from Phoenix New Times on Friday at 10 p.m.
Garcia previously told New Times the hate is nothing new, though it appears to have dialed up a bit since his run for City Council.
In an interview with the Arizona Republic, Garcia said PLEA's post aimed to distract from the real issues at the Phoenix Police Department. “We are not asking anything but to correct issues and end police brutality," Garcia said. “I know where I stand and I will continue to hold police accountable."
PLEA told the Republic the post had nothing to do with Garcia's ethnicity and "had everything to do with his long history of attacking Phoenix police officers and implying that our members are murderers and racists."