The police officer who threatened to shoot a man and woman suspected of shoplifting in front of their children has been fired. The decision to let the officer go is a rare win for holding police accountable for their over-the-top reactions to minor offenses like shoplifting.
The incident happened back in May. A black family in Phoenix went to their local Family Dollar store. At some point, store clerks called the police about a suspected shoplifter. The police went in pursuit of the family, who had just left the store – the four-year-old had apparently taken a doll without her parents noticing.
Police followed the family home to the parking lot of their apartment complex. There, with guns drawn, several police officers arrested the father of the children and harassed the mother. One cop threatened to shoot the adults in front of their children.
The altercation was caught on video taken by several people in the complex. Their videos went viral online and caused a severe backlash against the entire police department.
A doll in a box was found in the backseat of the car, where the children had been. No one was ever charged with shoplifting.
On October 22, the Phoenix Police Department announced that the officer who threatened to kill the shoplifting suspects in front of their children would be fired from the force. Several other officers involved in the debacle were reprimanded.
The department’s disciplinary review board had originally recommended that the officer who threatened to kill the suspect be suspended without pay for six weeks. The police chief, though, decided to overrule the recommendation based on the erosion of trust that the officer’s conduct had created.
There are a lot of obvious takeaways, here, like the complete overreaction that sent around half-a-dozen officers in response to a shoplifting call and the use of deadly force after what was known to be a trivial offense.
What is easy to look past, though, is the fact that a four-year-old was able to walk out of a store with a toy doll. Clerks didn’t stop her and didn’t seem to notice that she had left with merchandise. According to the police report of the incident, it took surveillance video to determine that she had taken the doll without paying for it.
When stores have no security measures to prevent shoplifting, they are deputizing the police department to act as their security team for them. Not only does this dry up police resources that can be used elsewhere, but it also heightens the severity of any alleged shoplifting episode because the police become involved from the start.
The criminal defense lawyers at Maine Criminal Defense Group legally represent people who have been accused of shoplifting in the southern Maine area. Contact us online or call us at (207) 571-8146 if you have been arrested for shoplifting in Portland, Saco, Biddeford, or surrounding communities.
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