Fear of Ferguson: PPD Chief Garcia's New Stance on Officer Shootings Rings Hollow
Phoenix Police Chief Daniel Garcia waxed eloquent during an unusual Saturday press conference, where he announced that the Arizona Department of Public Safety would be tasked with the criminal investigation of the shooting death of Michelle Cusseaux.
Phoenix Police Department video PPD Chief Garcia, speaking of Michelle Cusseaux's mother: "I could see the hurt in her face, and her words...touched my heart."
Four police officers responded to Cusseaux's West Phoenix apartment on August 14, ostensibly to pick her up and take her to get mental-health care. At one point, according to the Phoenix Police Department, Cusseaux, 50, emerged from her residence brandishing a hammer.
Subsequently, Sergeant Percy Dupra, a 19-year veteran of the force, shot Cusseaux, who was taken to a hospital, where she died.
At the press conference, Garcia spoke of his face-to-face meeting with Cusseaux's mom, Frances Garrett, a couple of days earlier.
The chief said "the hurt in her face" and Garrett's words "touched my heart."
Based on the conversation, Garcia said, he asked the DPS to take over the criminal investigation of the shooting.
Normally, in all such officer-involved shootings, the Phoenix Police Department performs both internal and criminal investigations.
A review of the criminal investigation by the Maricopa County Attorney's Office for possible charges is standard.
But on the Wednesday before the presser, Garcia issued a statement making it sound as if he was doing something different by asking County Attorney Bill Montgomery to "conduct a second -- and independent -- review of the [PPD's] criminal investigation."
In the same press release, Garcia stated that his department's "heartfelt thoughts" were with Cusseaux's family.
Still, the family wanted the criminal investigation done by an outside agency, and Garcia dutifully complied, one day after Cusseaux's family and its supporters marched her coffin through the streets of Phoenix to City Hall.
Garcia did not mention whether this unusual display influenced his decision.
But he did invoke the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, where the shooting of unarmed Michael Brown by Ferguson cop Darren Wilson sparked protests, rioting, and an overreaction by police involving the use of weaponry and tactics more akin to the situation in the Ukrainian city of Donetsk than what we expect in the land of the free.
Garcia cited the "emotion, anger, and, yes, mistrust" toward law enforcement exhibited in Ferguson and nationally. He said the Phoenix Police Department needed to overcome such misgivings.
"I want our department to stand for those issues of democracy and justice," he said. "But I also want the Phoenix Police Department to be known for compassion and trust."
Admirable sentiments, to be sure. Garcia also said he wants body cameras on all his cops, um, eventually. Among other promises, he's decreed that all employees should receive a couple hours of training in dealing with the mentally ill.
Sounds good, right?