Three members of the Phoenix Police Department made disparaging comments about Black Lives Matter protesters in October 2020, according to body-camera audio obtained by local station ABC15.
The officers, allegedly unaware that the camera was recording, made inappropriate comments about demonstrators who gathered for a Black Lives Matter protest on Oct. 17 in downtown Phoenix before being arrested.
In the audio, officers called the protesters “d-ckheads” and “a–hole kids.”
One questioned why officers didn’t “stomp on them right away.”
Another responded, “Gas em. I don’t give a sh-t if we just gas them and let them run like crazy…(inaudible) the sh-t out of them, who gives a sh-t?”
At the end of the video, one of the officers calls a citizen — who shouted at them as they drove by — a “f-cking liberal piece of sh-t.”
In a statement responding to the audio, Police Chief Jeri Williams said, “I have been and will continue to be an advocate of the amazing work done in this department each day. However, I know that unprofessional, disrespectful and inappropriate behavior from even one of our officers tarnishes the badge but more importantly, it hurts the community we have sworn to protect. I will not allow the actions and speech of a few of the 4,000 men and women of the Phoenix Police Department destroy the trust and credibility of those we serve. When that conduct does not show respect, you can expect that I as the chief will take swift and decisive disciplinary action.”
By the night of the protest, law enforcement agencies had been monitoring activists in the area for months, and officers were already in the park anticipating the demonstration when the protesters arrived.
The protesters walked down Washington Avenue, chanting “Black Lives Matter” and “A-C-A-B” [All Cops Are Bastards], while officers followed them.
Some protesters knocked over orange cones, toppled temporary street signs, and moved construction barriers to slow down the already-frustrated police.
As the demonstration came to an end after about 30 minutes at the corner of First Avenue and Van Buren, officers moved in to arrest the protesters.
The scene became chaotic as protesters shouted and officers fired pepper balls into the crowd.
In total, 18 members of the group were arrested and charged with five criminal charges, including riot, obstructing a public thoroughfare, unlawful assembly, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, and assisting a criminal street gang.
Phoenix Police Sgt. Doug McBride claimed that the group of protesters, referred to as ACAB, meets the criteria for a street gang because they chanted “A-C-A-B,” which counts as self-proclamation, wore all-Black, and carried umbrellas, which count as a uniform. The umbrellas were allegedly used to “gain an advance over law enforcement to commit criminal acts.”
The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office and the Phoenix Police Department are currently prosecuting the group as a street gang.
Defense attorneys representing the 18 defendants are likely to use the officers’ recently unveiled inappropriate comments during the trial.
One of the officers captured in the audio can be heard lamenting the days before body cameras were worn.
“We actually want to do the job like we did 10, 15 years ago. But it’s never going to come back. If they ever came back and they said, ‘Guys, just f-cking kick some f-cking ass out there and reduce crime,’” the officer said. The same officer added, “I think this [body camera] has taken the job down the drain.”
ABC15 reported earlier this month that members of the Phoenix Police Department celebrate violent acts against citizens with commemorative “challenge coins.” Specifically, officers celebrated shooting a man in the groin with a pepper ball.
Images of the coin show a picture of a man being shot on the obverse of the coin, and the date on which the incident took place on the other side.
The coin reads “GOOD NIGHT LEFT NUT” and “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN ONE NUT AT A TIME.”
Joshua Cobbin was shot in the groin by a pepper ball fired by an officer at a protest following then-President Donald Trump’s visit to the Phoenix Convention Center in August 2017.
“Like the Phoenix police officers caught on body camera making disparaging and violent remarks about [defendant] and the other defendants in this case, this challenge coin represents a disrespect for First Amendment rights and disdain for left-leaning protesters that apparently permeates the Phoenix Police Department and certainly permeated the grand jury presentation in this case,” according to recent a defense filing.