Phoenix officers investigated over use of force

Posted at 9:34 PM, Dec 11, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-11 23:34:08-05

The Phoenix Police Department says three officers have been investigated for misconduct involving improper use of force.  Investigators recommend that the county attorney file criminal charges against all three. Each incident was captured on video.

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One incident in May involved police talking with a woman believed to have been trespassing near 31st Avenue and McDowell Road. 

The woman, who was homeless, was sleeping behind a private building and the officers told her that she needed to move. As captured on a police body camera, the homeless woman and the officers then yelled obscenities at each other. An officer pepper sprayed the woman after a minutes-long confrontation over where the woman was allowed to sleep. 

A Phoenix police investigator recommends that each officer in that incident be charged with a felony for allegedly changing the timeline of events in their report, and the officer who pepper sprayed the woman be charged with misdemeanor assault.

The video “was concerning enough for [the officers’ supervisor]” to report the incident up the chain of command.

Phoenix police investigators decided that the use of the pepper spray was not justified. Neither officer could be reached Friday night.

A second incident occurred in September near Metro Center Mall. Surveillance video shows a man breaking the mall’s windows, then spotting approaching officers and surrendering by going to the ground, facedown, with his hands on his head. An officer then jumped on the suspect’s back, knees first, and slammed the suspect’s head into the ground. Police recommend the office be charged with misdemeanor assault. 

The police report did not identify the officer who jumped on the suspect.

Phoenix police say the officers have been reassigned to non-enforcement positions. An internal investigation is still in the process, but a completed criminal investigation has been submitted to the County Attorney's office for review. 

"I am extremely disappointed in the actions of these officers. Their conduct has a negative impact on all the positive police work our officers do on a daily basis," according to Phoenix Police Chief Joseph Yahner.

"These officers chose to ignore our core values of professionalism and respect as well as policy and training.  The Phoenix Police Department will hold the officers accountable for their actions and will continue to work with the community to ensure trust and confidence in the Phoenix Police Department."