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Phoenix Police Point Guns At Family After Child Allegedly Shoplifts

NOEL KING, HOST:

All right. A video of police officers in Phoenix, Ariz., has gone viral. The officers yell, curse and point their guns at a young black family. Mayor Kate Gallego apologized for what happened, and she's organized a community meeting at a local Baptist church. Daniel Perle of member station KJZZ has the latest on this story. And just a quick note - some listeners might find this story disturbing.

DANIEL PERLE, BYLINE: The incident began when employees at a nearby dollar store told police two black women and two kids had stolen toys. After arresting one of the women on prior charges before the car pulled away, police then followed the car and pulled over 22-year-old Dravon Ames and his 24-year-old fiancee Iesha Harper near their apartment complex in central Phoenix. The video shows what happened next.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED OFFICER: You are not complying with me.

DRAVON AMES: Yes, I am.

UNIDENTIFIED OFFICER: When I tell you to do something, you f****** do it. When I tell you to put your f******...

IESHA HARPER: I can't put my hands up; I got a baby.

PERLE: The report omits some of the actions of the police captured in the video. It makes no mention that one of the officers tried to rip Harper's 1-year-old from her arms as police ordered her to put her hands up, nor does it mention officers using profanity and making threats to Harper and Ames that they are going to, quote, "put a cap" in their head. In the police report, the officers claim they drew their weapons because Ames reached toward the center of the car. Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams addressed the video on Facebook.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JERI WILLIAMS: I, like you, am disturbed by the language and the actions of our officer.

PERLE: Mayor Kate Gallego also addressed the incident, apologizing to the community and saying that all police will be equipped with body cameras by August. But Viri Hernandez of local community activist group Poder In Action says police unions have been a big obstacle for change in the past. Hernandez says there is a culture of impunity within the police department that needs to change, beginning with the firing of officers involved in the incident.

VIRI HERNANDEZ: They should not be in our streets. They should not be in our community.

PERLE: A town hall addressing the issues will be held on Tuesday at Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church.

For NPR News, I'm Daniel Perle, in Phoenix. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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