By Corinne Murdock
The city of Phoenix announced last week it will punish Phoenix Police Department (PPD) officers for giving Black Lives Matter (BLM) protesters criminal street gang charges. This latest development was part of an ongoing investigation into how PPD handled the arrests of 18 BLM protestors last October.
City Manager Ed Zuercher submitted the report to the Phoenix City Council, alluding to further disciplinary actions and reorganization. In a previous letter summarizing the investigation, Zuercher noted that any of PPD’s Tactical Response Unit (TRU) officers involved would be removed from that team. He added that his office and Human Resources would determine disciplinary action, and that officers involved are under an administrative investigation.
Phoenix City Councilmember Sal DiCiccio told AZ Free News that this decision was nothing more than a political show.
“What Phoenix is doing is BS. We have rising crime rates, can’t patrol our streets effectively – all because we don’t have enough cops – and Phoenix politicians are making it worse by constantly attacking Phoenix PD,” wrote DiCiccio. “It’s political gamesmanship, and they’re putting the public at risk to satisfy a tiny handful of screaming anarchist activists who know nothing about anything.”
According to Arizona statute, criminal street gangs are either ongoing or informal associations in which individuals or the collective engage in the commission, attempted commission, facilitation, or solicitation of any felony. Criminal street gang members are defined as individuals who meet at least two of the following criteria: self-proclamation, witness testimony or official statement, written or electronic correspondence, paraphernalia or photographs, tattoos, clothing or colors, and any other indica of street gang membership.
Participation in a criminal street gang is defined as intentionally organizing, managing, directing, supervising, or financing a criminal street gang with the intent to promote or further the criminal objectives of the gang; knowingly inciting or inducing others to engage in violence or intimidation to promote or further the criminal objectives of the gang; furnishing advice or direction in the conduct, financing or management of a criminal street gang’s affairs with the intent to promote or further the criminal objectives of the gang; or intentionally promoting or furthering the criminal objectives of a criminal street gang by inducing or committing any act or omission by a public servant in violation of the public servant’s official duty.
Criminal street gang participation is a class 2 felony, while assistance is a class 3 felony.
According to their report, the BLM protestors were charged with criminal street gang assistance because they chanted “All Cops Are Bastards.” That’s the full phrase behind “ACAB,” an acronym used by political dissidents opposed to and possibly violent toward police, repopularized during the BLM protests and riots in the wake of George Floyd’s death last year. The Anti-Defamation League classifies ACAB as a hate symbol.
The BLM protestors’ chant reportedly caused PPD officers to believe the protestors were involved in an ACAB-affiliated gang with an intent to harm police. Ballard Spahr cited multiple issues with PPD’s attempt to classify the protestors as part of a new gang. This included PPD’s decision to ignore the absence of any gang called ACAB in the state’s gang database, GangNet.
This debacle hasn’t remained local. At the beginning of August, the DOJ launched its own investigation into PPD.
At the helm of the DOJ investigation is Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke – the Biden appointee who wants to defund the police “strategically,” per her opinion piece published in Newsweek last summer. Clarke promised that the DOJ would work with PDD to create the “best remedies” if they discover any systemic constitutional or federal statutory rights.
If no agreement on best remedies can be reached, Clarke threatened legal action.
The Biden Administration announced it would investigate the PPD and the city of Phoenix for arresting Black Lives Matter (BLM) protestors under criminal street gang charges.
Citing the DOJ’s investigation and a lack of jurisdiction, Attorney General Mark Brnovich has declined to launch an investigation of his own.