Thursday, December 11, 2014

Phoenix cops chase down fleeing white guy with weapon and drugs, don't kill him

Did you notice? Maybe not because only one news outlet covered this seemingly unremarkable story. Yesterday the Phoenix police apprehended a man they accused of a set of crimes that ought to sound very familiar to you if you've been following the local case of Rumain Brisbon, an unarmed black man shot dead by Phoenix Police last week.

Jarrod Nixon
Jarrod Nixon was taken into custody by Phoenix cops after residents reported a man acting suspicious, trying to open doors and asking for people who didn't live there. Nixon is alleged to have fled from police and, when apprehended, according to AZ Central, the only news outlet that reported it, they charged him with "burglary, possession of a weapon by a prohibited person and drug-related offenses."

And, notably, they did not kill him in the process. They spared him. Amazing, right? After all, that list of charges and allegations sounds exactly like what Phoenix cops have said about Rumain Brisbon! Except the officer who responded to a dubious tip about Brisbon gunned him down in the process. Now, far be it from me to allege that Phoenix PD or its officers are racist, but there's one key difference between these cases that might be obvious to the attentive observer. Unlike Rumain Brisbon, Jarrod Nixon was white.

To put some context on this, it's worth turning to a recent USA Today report on the disproportionate rate at which blacks and everyone else gets arrested in America's cities. We reported recently that Tempe and Scottsdale rank at the top of the list for Valley cities whose police agencies target blacks for arrest at starkly different rates than they do whites.

Phoenix, while not scoring as ridiculously high as either of those two cities, still ranked way up there. If you're black in Phoenix, your rate of arrest is 220.5 out of 1000. But if you're not black, your chance is only 77.6. That's almost three times more likely if you're black and, incidentally, it's also a higher rate than that at which the Ferguson PD arrests blacks. Yeah, that's right. Phoenix is worse than Ferguson.


These figures jibe with the experience that is driving the outrage pouring out into Valley streets night after night. Speaking to the media a few days ago, Jarett Maupin, one of many organizers taking protests to the streets, said, "The Phoenix Police Department does not treat white people this way. What that officer did was harass and accost them." These comments could very easily sum up the discrepancy in the treatment that Brisbon and Nixon received. Just in the last couple months, the names of black men and women killed at the hands of Phoenix police have become all too familiar. Not just Rumain Brisbon, but also Michelle Cusseaux and Ngozi Mbegbu.

Meanwhile, in the four years since Bill Montgomery took over as Maricopa County Attorney, there have been 145 shootings by Valley police, including 14 where the person shot was unarmed. And yet Montgomery hasn't seen fit to bring an indictment in a single case against an officer. Zero. Zippo.

The idea that policing is racist and that blacks and other minorities are disproportionately targets of police attention and violence is only controversial among whites, who generally experience policing in its most benevolent form, such as directing traffic or responding to property crime. Whites, without knowing it, are in a real sense the constituency of police, which becomes obvious the minute you look at the way statistics documenting support for the police break down by race, especially in times like this.

If you take the police at their word, the cases of Brisbon and Nixon compare very similarly and go towards exactly the point that angry protesters are making. And yet here we have starkly different outcomes. Brisbon, black, was killed when Officer Rine claimed he feared for his life, mistaking a bottle of pills for a gun. Meanwhile, Nixon, white and apparently armed in some fashion, was taken into custody without lethal force.

Cops were quick to say that Brisbon had a weapon and pot in his vehicle, and to suggest that this amounted to something of a retroactive justification for his killing. A black man with a gun and drugs -- that's meant to evoke the now common racist code word "thug." Meanwhile, according to the one news agency that bothered to cover Nixon's arrest, he was actually in physical possession of both drugs of some kind and a weapon when apprehended. Again, there is no hint from cops that this would have been a justification for shooting him.

Rumain Brisbon
Nixon is also reported to have run from officers, charging into an occupied home and causing a resident to flee out a window. And yet still there is no claim that any officer feared for his or her life, and no officer shot at him. Although witness accounts dispute that Brisbon fled from Officer Rine, the department's public reasoning for his shooting hinges in no small part on their allegation that he did so.

Going by what the police have said, here we have two very similar cases. Indeed, where they differ slightly, the case reported against Nixon is worse. After all, the worst that is alleged about Brisbon is that he may have been selling drugs. The police say Nixon was breaking into occupied homes. And yet only one of these two men is now dead, killed by Phoenix police. The other will get at least a chance at a day in court. The only remaining chance for justice for Brisbon now lies in the streets.


Monday, December 1, 2014

CBS 5 trashes local protester, gives pass to former Steubenville coach who started fight with protesters

Belardine (in black) attacks demonstrators in Scottsdale on Saturday (Dennis Gilman/Phoenix New Times)

CBS 5's Karla Navarrete's story on a protester, arrested at an anti-police protest, featured details on the man's family background, including naming his father and occupation. When it came to the other two men arrested that night, who were accused of attacking protesters, there was no such effort, despite one of the men's involvement in a crime which prompted international outrage.  Had Navarrete googled either of the other men who were arrested after instigating a fight with demonstrators, she might have learned that one of the two men arrested, Matthew Michael Belardine, was involved in the Steubenville rape case.

Belardine in court in Steubenville last April (AP Photo)

Matthew Belardine, while never a suspect in the rape, was at one time the volunteer coach for the Steubenville High School football team and hosted the party that the Steubenville students attended the night that the sexual assault occurred.  In April he was sentenced to 10 days in jail after he plead no contest to serving alcohol to a minor and making false statements to investigators. Belardine could have faced up to six months in jail for each of those charges, in addition he was sentenced to one year of probation, due to expire in April of 2015. Belardine was arrested after an investigation into other crimes tied to the rape of a student by Steubenville football players in 2012.  The volunteer coach was charged along with a district principal and the Steubenville superintendent for their roles in knowing or covering up the assault of the student.


Matthew Belardine's arrest for assault and disorderly conduct on Saturday night occurred after he and a friend attacked participants in the anti-police demonstration on Saturday night, some of whom were wearing the notorious Guy Fawkes mask. His companion Samuel Lee Busic was charged with assault.  Videographer Dennis Gilman captured Belardine's pal Samuel Busic charging through the crowd screaming "Fuck Anonymous!"

Why was Busic so angry with Anonymous? Well maybe because Anonymous played a central role in driving the Steubenville story into the national media and ensuring that charges were brought by officials, who up to that point seemed more inclined to ignore the whole thing, covering up for a popular sports team and players. Specifically, Anonymous doxxed Belardine. Anonymous has also been active in the protests in Ferguson, in particular outing Klan members publicly, including dumping the data of a local KKK leader.

Why was Channel 5, which was so vigorous in digging into the life of a protester accused of a property crime, so curiously negligent when it came to a man now charged with assaulting people at that same protest? The protest on Saturday night was in opposition to police brutality, specifically in Ferguson but also in general. KPHO has been accused over the years of being too cozy with police and specifically the local police union PLEA. And apparently the tool kit of the modern KPHO reporter doesn't include the modern classic, the Google search. And do we need to mention the obvious racial difference between those arrested and the treatment they got? This latest story is another stain on their credibility.

More local media follies:

Emails reveal: New Times Reporter Took a Mulligan on Occupy Phoenix

Fox 10 Producer "Thankful" for drunk driver crashing into Phoenix home