Concerned African-American religious leaders and clergy in Arizona have issued a statement and list of demands following the Scottsdale Police Department and Maricopa County Attorney's office decision not to file criminal charges against Mesa police officers following an excessive force investigation.
A review by the Scottsdale Police Department had found that Mesa officers were legally justified in using force to restrain 33-year-old Robert Johnson in a hallway back in May.
Surveillance video circulated following Johnson's arrest, shows officers surround and punch Johnson multiple times.
In a response to the decision to not file charges, religious leaders expressed their disappointment that charges were not brought against the Mesa Police Officers involved in the incident.
They also issued the following demands:
- That the Mesa Police Officers involved in this violent act against Mr. Johnson be terminated.
- That the Mesa Police Department immediately initiates training, such as Critical Incident Training, improved de-escalation training, and "inherent bias training" to prepare officers better to interact with the community.
- That the City of Mesa establishes a Civilian Police Review Accountability Board to investigate future police abuse allegations.
- That the Mesa Police Department engages the Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Assistance to lead the Mesa Police Department in the VALOR training.
- That the Mesa Police Department establishes a relationship with the Community Relations Service of the Department of Justice.
- That the Mesa Police Department employs a full-time community liaison person to build a bridge between the Mesa Police Department and the community.
The demands from the clergy came during a passionate town hall meeting in Mesa Thursday night to discuss police use of force issues.
Johnson's mother echoed the clergy's demands and said she hoped to see the officers involved in the case terminated.
"If you're going to be an officer of the law you're supposed to be able to have communication skills. You're supposed to be able to be able to disarm people by talking. There is an easier way to deal with minorities, but talking to us like we are human. We are not play toys, we are people," said Hardy.
The leaders go on to say that they expect a response from the Mayor of Mesa, Mesa's Police Chief, and City Manager of the City of mesa within seven to ten days of August 31.
The FBI is now investigating and reviewing the incident.
The surveillance video, released in June, shows officers approaching and speaking with Johnson shortly before the altercation occurs. The officers are then seen punching Johnson several times before taking him to the ground.
"Johnson's body language was projecting he was preparing for a physical altercation," one of the officers wrote in the report. "It appeared Johnson was trying not to sit down in order to retain a position of physical advantage by remaining on his feet."
Charges filed against Johnson were later dropped by the city attorney. The officers were placed on leave and will remain so until the Mesa Police Department concludes its own internal investigation.
The incident was one of several this year where Mesa officers have been investigated for possibly using excessive force.
Earlier this month, the Maricopa County Attorney's Office announced charges would not be filed against Mesa officers in another incident involving a teenage robbery suspect.
In that case, officers found a 15-year-old near the scene of a reported armed robbery. Video from an officer's body camera showed police roughly handling the suspect after he had been taken into custody.