Monday, January 31, 2011

"Down Cop" James Wren Sentenced to 1.5 Years; Made Plans to be "Dirty" Before Becoming Officer

James Wren

Former Phoenix police officer James Wren was sentenced to 1.5 years in prison today for ripping off drug dealers while on the job

Valley Fever reported details of the crimes after Wren was busted in June. The officer, who's dad was also a cop, and an accomplice had conspired to target drug dealers who were about to make big purchases. On two occasions, Wren's buddy set up the deals and had Wren intercept the dealers in his squad car while they still had the dough.

We've since obtained the police report, which contains a fascinating tidbit about the case:

Wren joined the Phoenix Police Department with the intention of being "dirty."

The accomplice, Avash Mardjaee, was introduced to Wren in 2008 by a mutual acquaintance while Wren worked at the Discount Tire on 32nd Street and Cactus Road.

"Avash was told (Wren) was becoming a cop," the report states. "Some time goes by, and Avash explained he was told he was going to be a 'down cop.'

"Avash asked what this meant, and it was explained to him that he's down to 'do shit,'" the report says.

Avash and Wren later met at a Home Depot to chat and comfortable with each other. Wren was wearing street clothes.

"Through their first meeting, it was known to Avash that James was a 'dirty cop,'" the report says.

At a second meeting, Wren appeared in full uniform. Plans for the ripoffs were discussed further.

Avondale police later used Avash as a confidential informant, and he spilled the beans on Wren after being asked if he knew about any police corruption, the report says.

Wren and Avash set up two deals in 2008 in which Wren made traffic stops and stole boxes of cash from the driver. They split up the proceeds, with Wren earning $16,000 on the first deal and $20,000 on the second.

A year and a half went by with no contact between the men, and then Avash called Wren about a "big one" he wanted to pull off. Arrangements were made for Wren to locate and pull over another dealer. On June 10, Wren stopped the car he knew contained another box of cash.

He walked up to the vehicle and spoke briefly with the driver, who told Wren he didn't English. Wren had a gut feeling that the guy was an undercover officer.

"I was, my stomach is still turning, and that's how it was at the stop," Wren later confessed to police. "I was like, this is fucking wrong. This isn't right. I said, to be honest with you, when I contacted the officer, right away, I knew, I was like, 'This is a fucked-up situation.'"

Wren was asked why he thought the man was an officer.

"Because he didn't look like a chud," Wren replied.

Wren's suspicions at the scene were confirmed when he ran the car's vehicle identification number. The computer came back with the company name "that we use for unmarked vehicles."

He asked the driver what was going on, but the undercover officer wouldn't break character. Wren told the driver to take off.

Under surveillance by numerous officers and a helicopter at that point, a freaked-out Wren sped back to Phoenix PD's Estrella Mountain Precinct at 2111 South 99th Avenue and was seen walking in the building. One of the officers tailing Wren drove into the precinct's back lot, where Wren was sitting on a picnic table talking on a cell phone. The officer parked the car and got out when he saw Wren walking toward him.

The tension both of these officers felt at this point must have been thick enough to cut with a knife.

"Hey, Dave, what are you doing here?" Wren asked the officer.

"I greeted Wren as I would any other acquaintance in hopes of downplaying my purpose for being there until my squad was in place to support me," the officer wrote in his report.

The officer chatted to Wren for a minute "about a variety of topics in attempt to keep him occupied until support arrived. Wren was obviously very nervous, was constantly looking around the parking lot, and frequently during conversation would stop talking mid-sentence and stare at me, losing his train of thought."

The officer told Wren he was just there to work out. Wren began complaining that he'd pulled over an undercover officer, but the man had refused to admit he was a cop.

"It's bullshit," Wren fumed. "I know that guy was a cop. I told him I knew he was a cop and he still acted like a Mexican."

Officer "Dave" told him to relax, but Wren seemed to only grow more nervous.

"I noticed Wren constantly kept his hand on his gun while he talked," the officer later wrote. "Wren had his hand wrapped around the grip of his gun, as if he were preapring to draw the weapon from the holster."

Wren asked "Dave" why another officer had parked at the other end of the lot. He was probably there to work out, too, the officer explained.

"Dave, dave, man, why does (the officer) have his rifle out?" Wren asked.

"I told Wren, 'You know why. Don't move. Don't make me do anything here,'" the officer wrote in his report. "Wren responded, 'Dave, Dave, man, seriously? No, no, please don't. Please, you know my family, Dave. Don't do this, please! I knew it!"

Wren was taken into custody without any problems.

From the sound of it, though, the sting could have gone south at several points if Wren had lost his cool.

Taking "down cops" off the street is a dangerous business.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Phoenix officer who scuffled with councilman faces new assault claim

The Phoenix police officer who last year was involved in an incident with a Phoenix City Council member is now being investigated for an alleged assault, a police spokesman said Wednesday.

Sgt. Trent Crump said Officer Brian Authement was involved in a Jan. 13 incident "on a sports field and between two participants" in Phoenix. Crump said that while the incident is under investigation by the department's Special Investigations Detail, Authement will be placed in a "non-enforcement position."

"He'll be on a desk while we look into this," Crump said.

Authement last March was involved in an incident at a house fire in which he reportedly threw Phoenix Councilman Michael Johnson, the city's only African-American council member, to the ground and handcuffed him. Johnson at the time claimed civil-rights abuses. The officer claimed Johnson assaulted him.

Johnson and Authement have since resolved their disagreement, ending criminal and internal investigations into the matter.

Crump said that Authement has worked for the Police Department for just under three years. His current assignment is in the Squaw Peak Precinct.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Oversight board investigating former Surprise police officer

A former Surprise police officer accused of lying on a police report and to prosecutors may lose his certification to be a police officer.

The Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board is reviewing allegations that Steven R. Celsy, 24, lied about a February traffic stop of a suspected drunken driver. The board, which provides training and oversight to law-enforcement members, said in a case overview that Celsy:

- Lied in his police report.

- Lied to city prosecutor.

- Lied to department officials assigned to investigate the incident.

Celsy, who quit last year after department investigators made the accusations, could not be reached for comment. He had worked for the Surprise police for 2 1/2 years and resigned in October after a department Disciplinary Review Board recommended that he be fired.

A case overview provided by the state board said Celsy pulled over a suspected drunken driver late at night on Feb. 20 after a resident called 911. Celsy asked another officer to arrest the suspect, saying he was not confident doing it himself because did not have enough experience with DUI arrests, the documents said.

The arresting officer said he could smell alcohol coming from the vehicle, and the driver's eyes were bloodshot, according to a Surprise police report. The driver couldn't walk a straight line but refused other field sobriety tests. A blood-alcohol test was not taken, the report says.

Celsy later filed a supplemental police report saying he saw the suspect commit several traffic violations. His claims were contradicted by video footage and data from an automated tracking device in his patrol car, according to records.

A lawyer for the suspect, whose name was not mentioned in board documents, had requested the video footage and notified the city prosecutor of the inconsistency, the board documents said.

"At no time was Officer Celsy behind this car," Curt Milam, a board-compliance specialist, told board members Wednesday.

Celsy met with a city prosecutor in May who questioned him about the inconsistency between his police report and the video footage.

"Officer Celsy maintained that his report was accurate and attempted to explain that he stopped following the suspect vehicle in order to cut the driver off, anticipating that the driver would cut through a parking lot," the board documents said. "This action was determined to be implausible."

Department officials served Celsy in June with a notice of investigation. During an interview, they confronted Celsy with data from his patrol car's automated-tracking device as well the video footage.

"Investigators were hopeful that when confronted with the evidence, Officer Celsy would tell the truth. This did not occur," documents said.

Ian Murton, a Surprise Police Employees Association official assigned to offer advice and other assistance to Celsy, said the board can suspend, revoke or leave in place an officer's certification.

Murton said when an officer's certification is suspended, it's difficult to find work in law enforcement later.

"It's very competitive," he said. "I would say especially right now it would be very difficult to find a job."

Phoenix cop Shoots Suicidal Man After Roomate Calls Cops

Police shot a Phoenix man multiple times at his home Saturday evening near Bell Road and 42nd Avenue after he allegedly threatened officers with a knife.

No officers were injured in the shooting but the man was undergoing surgery and it was unknown whether he was expected to survive until the procedure was complete, said Phoenix Police Sergeant Steve Martos.

Authorities responded to the Desert Meadows Apartment complex in the 16800 block of 42nd Avenue around 6:45 p.m. after receiving a call from a woman who said her roommate was threatening to commit suicide with a knife, Martos said.

Officers found the man in an upstairs bedroom of the apartment and tried to dissuade him from harming himself with the weapon. Martos said one officer deployed a Taser on the suspect when he threatened authorities.

After giving several commands to drop the knife, officers shot the suspect multiple times. The man's roommate was not inside at the time.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Eyewitness: Shooting Victim Did Not Point Gun At MCSO Deputy

MESA, Ariz. -- An eyewitness to a deadly shooting involving a Maricopa County Sheriff's deputy disputes the sheriff's account of how the shooting happened on Crescent Avenue in Mesa on Friday night.

Miguel Hernandez said he watched a deputy shoot Felipe Castellanos, his neighbor, from his front window.

"The sheriff's deputies just came up running up to him and then they told him to turn off the engine. And he just put it in park, like he was going in reverse. He put it in park . . . and then they he shot him three times," said Hernandez.

On Monday, Maricopa Sheriff Joe Arpaio said Castellanos had threatened deputies with an AK-47 before he was shot two times.

Arpaio said Castellanos died from his gunshot wounds Monday morning.

"When a deputy approached, he was acting strange; swearing at our deputy, pointed a rifle at our deputy, who fired the two shots, one hitting the subject in the head," said Arpaio.

"I never saw that. I was right here and it happened right there. I, I never saw him raise his gun or anything," said Hernandez.

Deputies say they were called to Castellano's Crescent Avenue home for a domestic dispute around 10:30 p.m.

A spokesman said Castellanos fired gun shots, possible into the air and left his home.

They said Castellanos returned to his home a short time later and grabbed an AK-47 and ammunition from his home.

He encountered deputies as he was trying to back out of his driveway.

"I praise my deputy for taking proper professional action," Arpaio said. "When you have a person like this, that has all the ammunition, the gun, what was he going to do if we did not stop him?"

Arpaio said Castellanos is a convicted felon and an illegal immigrant.

Hernandez described Castellanos as a friendly neighbor.

He said Castellanos did not seem prone to violence and does not think he was trying to hurt deputies.

"They should do something else, not kill him," he said.

An MCSO spokesperson refused to identify the deputy involved in the shooting.

CBS 5 has requested records from the incident and will let you know what we find.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Lawsuit alleges Mesa police beating

A Mesa man who claims he was beaten by several Mesa police officers while being arrested has filed a lawsuit against the department. Aaron Belander is serving a 30-month prison term for aggravated assault, but on Nov. 4 he filed a lawsuit in which he claims seven officers broke two of his ribs and nose during the Sept. 9, 2009, beating.

Caught on tape

The entire nighttime incident was captured on video, which was shot by a Mesa police helicopter hovering overhead. At the time, police learned Belander was free from jail while he awaited trial on a suspected home invasion in summer 2009. Police had been watching Belander's vehicle after they learned he may have a handgun, which is illegal for a convicted felon.

Traffic stop and chase

The infrared video shot from the helicopter shows Belander stop his pickup outside Highland High School in Gilbert. Two minutes later, he was surrounded by nine police vehicles.

A short time later, Belander could be seen fleeing from his pickup and police officers gave chase on foot. Belander later stopped and threw his hands up to surrender.

Seconds later, an officer shot Belander with a Taser, and he fell to the ground. In police reports, the officers claimed Belander refused to show his hands and reached for his waist. Once on the ground, Belander began fighting with officers, who admitted in their reports to kicking and wrestling with him.

Belander was hit with a Taser a second time before being placed in handcuffs.


Belander pleaded guilty to felony attempted aggravated assault for an unrelated incident on Sept. 3, 2009. In court documents, Belander's attorney, Geoffrey H. Fish, claims the attack left his client with a broken nose, two fractured ribs and "numerous contusions and lacerations."

The lawsuit accuses the officers of using excessive force, negligence, battery and violating Belander's constitutional rights.

Mesa police and city officials generally do not speaking on pending litigation. In May, Belander and his attorney offered to settle the incident with the city for $350,000.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Police Taser 64 Year Old Man For Refusing To Go To The Hospital Because He Had No Insurance

Tasers, used by over 12,000 law agencies in the US, see in custody deaths rise 600% in their first year of use, before returning to the exact same levels before tasers were used.

Phoenix police union loses members over dissension

PLEA president Mark Spencer

As the Phoenix Police Department endured one of its most turbulent years in recent history, many officers quit the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association over the union's politics and priorities.

Roughly 8 percent of members resigned from PLEA last year, which the labor group mainly attributes to officers who quit paying monthly dues to save money during the tough economy.

But others have left in protest of the union's support of Senate Bill 1070, Arizona's controversial new immigration law, or because of the ongoing, bitter battle between union leaders and Phoenix Public Safety Manager Jack Harris.

Some disenchanted with PLEA say the union's political positions and public attacks against Harris distract from what should be the labor group's main mission: to fight for better pay and working conditions for rank-and-file police officers.

PLEA President Mark Spencer said the union board expected to alienate members.

The attacks on management and passionate support for SB 1070 directly responded to what a majority of members wanted to see from union leaders, he said. SB 1070 makes it a crime to be in the state illegally and requires law-enforcement officers to detain suspected undocumented immigrants when practicable.

"There's a cost involved with doing business like that," Spencer said.

"All of our members are important, but we get our direction from the majority of members."

Spencer expects that the worst of the drops have passed and that fewer officers will leave this week, one of only two times a year city employees can quit a labor group.

PLEA added 31 members this winter and will continue to add members or recruit those who recently backed out, Spencer said.

He also said some officers no longer wanted to pay $60 in basic monthly dues to save cash in the tough economy.

"It comes in cycles," he said. "We're not aware of any mass exodus."

PLEA's membership was about 89 percent of about 2,560 eligible police officers in 2006 and spiked in recent years before dropping to 83 percent of 2,675 patrol officers in July 2010, city records show.

The city's other unions representing firefighters, management, sanitation workers, engineers and other city employees saw their memberships grow or hold steady.

Tired of rhetoric

J.R. Pool, a Phoenix police domestic-violence detective, worked for years as a PLEA representative before dropping out of the union and joining another labor organization in July.

Pool said his friends on the force feel that PLEA "negotiates through news releases" and that blasts against the Police Department alienate officers who've grown tired of the rhetoric.

"The majority is the frustration with PLEA losing focus on the patrol officer in favor of a personal agenda," Pool said. "It's ruining my reputation, and it's ruining patrol officers' reputation."

PLEA has criticized Harris' leadership and backed a lawsuit against Harris for drawing a pension as well as a salary.

Harris and the department faced a turbulent 2010, which brought multiple fraud investigations, an officer facing murder charges in the fatal shooting of an unarmed suspect, and the unsolved shooting death of a sergeant.

Money and benefits

As the bargaining unit for Phoenix police officers and detectives, PLEA is primarily responsible for negotiating salaries and benefits for patrol officers. The union also works on developing better working conditions, such as pushing for changes in how the city handles internal investigations and other policy issues.

PLEA representatives go to officer-involved shootings, represent officers accused of misconduct and help officers accused of crimes get legal assistance.

The Police Department budget is about $419 million, or 43 percent of the city's more than $1 billion general-fund operating budget for the 2010-11 fiscal year.

The union helped play a role in sparing officers from citywide layoffs as Phoenix was facing a more than $277 million budget shortfall last year.

All other city departments faced layoffs except police and firefighters. They did, however, agree to 3.2 percent in wage reductions along with all the other city employees.

Phoenix officials had little to say about the loss of PLEA membership, saying the city is prohibited from influencing how employees choose to be represented and will cooperate with whatever group officers officially support.

Pool paid dues as a PLEA member for 22 years before quitting.

Part of the problem, he said, was the union's bloglike website, run by the PLEA board, which recently characterized the Police Department as corrupt and "doomed to failure and a cycle of destruction that will continually repeat until change is brought about."

"It was the constant negativity coming from PLEA that started wearing on me over time," Pool said.

Nick Wubker, a Phoenix drug-enforcement detective, made his concerns known in direct letters to Spencer about how patrol officers perceive PLEA.

The former member explained that he was leaving the union because "the members of PLEA are deeply concerned about what is happening with PLEA, your alignment with certain political figures, your political stances on non-PLEA-related issues, and your inability to convey the true concerns of the members," he wrote in one letter.

The FOP is growing

As PLEA has been losing members, the Phoenix Fraternal Order of Police has seen its ranks grow from fewer than 300 in 2008 to 503 active members in 2010. The increased membership is encouraging the FOP to consider trying to push PLEA aside.

Leaders at the FOP and other police groups said PLEA's rhetoric unnecessarily portrays the department as dysfunctional.

The Phoenix FOP lodge could challenge PLEA as the bargaining unit for rank-and-file police officers after the city's current contract expires in 2012, according to Jim Mann, executive director for the FOP's Arizona Labor Council.

The FOP is a national law-enforcement organization with more than 325,000 members around the U.S., including at least 2,200 lodges that serve as bargaining units for their police departments.

The FOP has been aggressively poising itself for the fight, posting recruitment videos on YouTube and material on police-station bulletin boards. PLEA and the FOP also have been dueling through surveys and polls.

In December, PLEA leaders posted the results of their latest membership poll, which they said showed "over 80 percent of Phoenix police officers believe Harris should be fired."

Critics of PLEA said the no-confidence vote was merely a small percentage of PLEA membership, not of all sworn officers. Others said they never had a chance to vote.

The FOP countered with a survey of 410 Phoenix voters that indicated 65 percent of those polled supported Harris, while 53 percent of those polled disagreed with how Spencer did his job.

'Let members decide'

Despite the turmoil, it's unclear whether a majority of Phoenix police would switch from PLEA to the FOP.

Brian Livingston, president of the Arizona Police Association, composed of PLEA and dozens of other state law-enforcement unions, said PLEA will be fine.

"Let the members decide," said Livingston, who served as PLEA chairman in 1999 when he was shot in the line of duty and forced to retire.

"I've every confidence they will choose PLEA because of their history and where the organization is going," Livingston added.

Lt. Mark Hafkey, president of the Phoenix Police Sergeants and Lieutenants Association, said his union, the bargaining unit for police supervisors, recently changed its bylaws to accept disgruntled PLEA members as associates. He also said dues are less expensive than PLEA's.

Hafkey said he disagrees with PLEA's political stances, although he questioned whether pushing PLEA out would be the right decision for the city's police.

"I'm not sure people want that," Hafkey said. "PLEA was a respected union for years. It wasn't until a few years ago . . . people started thinking about supporting FOP."

Vice Mayor Thelda Williams said that the struggle between PLEA and the FOP has been going on for decades and that she expects PLEA will come out on top as it has in the past.

In 1988, PLEA emerged victorious from a similar challenge by the FOP, with officers voting 825-323 to keep PLEA in place.

"The Police Department has been through upheaval and has had so many bad things happen this year that I'm sure it has influenced this struggle and (PLEA) membership," Williams said.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Pinal County deputy in desert shootout fired over comments

Disgraced Pinal County deputy Louie Puroll with Pinal County sheriff Paul Babeau

A Pinal County Sheriff's deputy who purportedly was wounded in a gun battle with drug smugglers last year has been fired for making false statements to a journalist.

In a news release, the Sheriff's Office said Deputy Louie Puroll was terminated for 10 violations of departmental policy governing ethics violations, incompetence and truthfulness.

Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu said in the statement that he stood by Puroll's controversial claim of being in an April shootout because the account was supported by evidence. However, Babeu said, comments made by the deputy to a Phoenix New Times reporter "brought discredit to himself and the men and women representing our sworn law enforcement profession."

Puroll suffered a minor flesh wound in a shootout that propelled him and Babeu into the national media spotlight in the heat of public debate over border security and Arizona's tough immigration law known as Senate Bill 1070.

After the incident, numerous law enforcement experts and others contended that Puroll fabricated the entire incident based on physical evidence and inconsistencies in his story. Babeu stood behind the deputy's account, and a Pinal County Sheriff's investigation concluded that the incident was authentic.

Puroll was suspended last year for comments he made to New Times.

In one interview, he told the newspaper that he had been approached by Mexican cartel members and asked to help them. In another, he told reporter Paul Rubin that a friend had offered to murder Rubin in retaliation for critical news stories.

Puroll, a search-and-rescue deputy with 14 years on the force, was placed under investigation because he had never reported those matters to his superiors or to other law enforcement.

Despite Puroll's questionable comments in the media, Babeu has maintained that the deputy's shootout with smugglers was validated by evidence.

Puroll could not be reached for comment.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Exhuming the State's Avenging Angels: Revisiting 'Officer Down' in Light of Recent Revelations About the Phoenix PD

From Fires Never Extinguished: A blog of the Phoenix Class War Council

The recent very suspicious death of Phoenix police Sgt. Sean Drenth (as yet unsolved) and October's outrageous murder of unarmed Phoenix resident Daniel Rodriguez in his own home by Officer Richard Chrisman provides me an opportunity to revisit some of the points I made in an article I wrote a few years ago called "Officer Down: The Media and Cop-Killings". In that piece, I pointed out how when an officer is killed in the line of duty, in general no investigation into the officer's record or character is permitted, because to do so would put into question the religious nature of this society's attitudes (and especially those of the media institutions) towards the police.

Dead cops are treated like little dead angels -- heroes, pure of heart and motive, who meet their tragic end too soon and in defense of the smallest among us. It's as if every cop dies rescuing an old lady from a house on fire, a box of kittens under one arm and a guilty-faced arsonist firmly gripped by the collar in the other. Justice served!

A common attack lobbed at those who dare criticize the cops and their role in society is that, despite one's lack of faith in the oft-touted immaculateness of the paladin in blue, "They'd protect you, too, even though you hate them." Of course, those of us who have seen their brutality liberally meted out in person know better. For instance, one reason most Americans have never been clubbed by a cop is because they've never been to a protest, not because cops don't beat people at protests. Likewise, middle class white people generalize their at worst mildly annoying experiences with ticket-issuing cops to everyone else, and therefore remain baffled each and every time a black kid is dragged from a car and beaten by one of them.

The coverage given to cops, and the heaps of posthumous praise piled on them, is rivaled but not surpassed, only by the attention given to dead soldiers. Perceived disparagers of the troops or their mission are counseled that they fight for our right to dissent, even if not the rights of those they invade and torture (although their defenders rarely even concede that much). And as with cops, only the most superficial investigations into their mission is countenanced. They do violence in far off villages so that we can be free, the logic goes. Not to protect and advance the interests of the capitalist and political class. No, nothing so crass, to be sure. In the common parlance, all enemies of the military are Hitler or terrorists with ticking time bombs. Of the cop, their targets are child molesters, murderers and rapists. And all critics of the police and ("our") soldiers are appeasers, ingrates or apologists for the above listed menagerie of the foes of honest humanity. Or Reds. Now we start to get to the crux of it, don't we?

When a cop dies, freeways are shut down, like the 101 in the north Valley was for Drenth's corpse and it's accompanying tearful and politically opportunistic entourage. Traffic is diverted, local politicians and police officials are given free reign to praise the officer in the media without suffering the cruel editor's snips and cuts. Sometimes the media covers the funeral procession live. Flags are lowered to half-staff. Again, just like soldiers. Indeed, the willingness of capitalist society to shut down its holy arteries of commerce to venerate its fallen protectors reveals their true purpose. But we already knew that.

Which again brings me to the case of Sgt. Drenth, Officer Chrisman and a host of other officers in the South Mountain Precinct of the Phoenix Police Department. I can't think of another time when the sheer force of scandal has compelled onto the public discourse the question of police sainthood. Or at least it should. In a way we have to count ourselves lucky at the odd convergence of circumstances that now provides us the opportunity to interrogate again the question of police and the way they are held up in society.

Called on a domestic disturbance between Daniel Rodriguez and his mother, which was over by the time he arrived, Officer Chrisman barged into Rodriguez's mobile home, put his service weapon to Rodriguez's head, shot his dog and then, eventually, opened fire on Rodriguez himself as he attempted to leave the trailer with his bike. "I don't need a warrant," he is reported to have said in response to Rodriguez's protestations. The act so outraged his partner, Sergio Virgillo, who was present when it happened (which says a lot, as we'll see later) that he broke the blue code of silence and denounced Chrisman to investigators.

Still, the police union ran to his support, paying his $150,000 bail with union dues. Phoenix Law Enforcement Association (PLEA) President Mark Spencer, a notorious anti-immigrant activist and right-wing Christian, showed up in the courtroom for Chrisman's initial appearance wearing a "We Support Officer Richard Chrisman" t-shirt. Initially and reluctantly, the state only charged Officer Chrisman with aggravated assault and animal cruelty.

Public outrage and a series of protests, which went on for a week, eventually compelled the outgoing County Attorney Rick Romley to charge Chrisman with second-degree murder. Stating his overall support for the police, and the defense of the bad apple myth of policing, Romley was careful to reassure the cops that his issuing of the new charge wasn't a sign of his straying from the fold. "But we as citizens put our trust and our lives in their hands, and when one violates and abuses that trust, we must hold them accountable to the community for that breach," he told the press.

An interesting side note, last year following the anti-Joe Arpaio march, the Phoenix New Times reacted with a vengeance worthy of a puritanical witchhunt to the Dine', O'odham, Anarchist Bloc's assertion that the Phoenix Police were as bad, if not worse in many ways, than the Sheriff's Department. After all, the PPD is responsible for more deportations than Sheriff Joe, hands down. The immigrant movement here had put a lot of faith in the PPD as the heroes of their anti-Joe campaign and would brook no criticism of their saviors -- even when PPD deliberately and without provocation charged their horses into a mixed age crowd, trampling people and pepper spraying indiscriminately. Interestingly, several of those arrested, including one for throwing a water bottle at heavily armed police during the melee, among other complaints, were charged with the same crime as was Chrisman initially, who is alleged to have murdered an unarmed man.

Indeed, the press, especially the New Times, is directly responsible in no uncertain terms for the charges filed against anarchists following that event and the fact that our comrades continue to face prosecution (with one, Grace, having just been released after serving a month in Joe's jail as a result of the state's blackmail operation). So, it's with some chagrin that I note that, almost a year later, the New Times has come to the startling conclusion that, in fact, the PPD is as rife with abuse and corruption as the MCSO. Better late than never, I suppose, but it would be nice if anarchists got some credit for saying it first and didn't have to suffer alone the consequences of standing up against such nonsense. But I suppose that was a different PPD that attacked the march last January, right?

So, let's get back to Chrisman. A little digging, the result I'm sure of the pure monstrosity of his actions and the fact that he is a living as opposed to dead cop (of whom not a bad word would be permitted), revealed something interesting. Chrisman was on something called the "Brady List". That list, which can be viewed here, is composed of officers who have been singled out for acts of dishonesty while on the job. In Chrisman's case, the black mark came when he was observed by a couple of security guards on camera harassing a homeless woman and planting a crack pipe on her.

What was he doing with a crack pipe, you may wonder? Maybe ask the fine officers of the New Orleans Police Department who, it has been revealed recently, routinely carried with them what they used to refer to as a "ham sandwich" -- i.e., an untraceable pistol to plant in case an officer involved shooting revealed no weapon on the victim. Remarkably in the case of Chrisman we have a case here where security guards, generally power hungry and drooling sycophants to the police that they hope one day themselves to be, were so outraged by his behavior that they turned him in. Quite astounding, really. It makes you wonder what his uncontroversial activity was like, doesn't it?

But that outrage is not a rare exception, it turns out. It has since been revealed that the head of the Phoenix Police Department's internal investigation squad was himself on the Brady List! And do you know what else? Revelations from a three year long investigation into the false billing of overtime by officers in the PPD has revealed a ring of fraud within the department, in which what has been reported to be as many as 25 officers in the South Mountain Precinct, aided by sympathetic bosses, routinely billed for overtime that never happened, padding their already inflated wages. Three officers have been charged with serious felonies as a result, probably just sacrificial lambs to cover up whatever else has been going on.

But something interesting came to light as a result of this investigation that really bears remarking on: according to the reports coming out now, if Sgt. Sean Drenth was still alive, he would have been indicted as well. Which would make the officer over which the city elite so recently poured out it's glycerin tears, the latest fallen hero in a long line of since-beatified saints, just another corrupt cop in a corrupt department.

To make this connection even more clear, Officer Chrisman has been reported to be among those under investigation as well, putting our fallen angel Sgt. Drenth a mere one degree of separation, if not a co-conspirator, with alleged murderer Chrisman in the overtime scam. But, to be fair, one degree is in fact too far, since the accused mastermind of the operation, Officer Contreras (recently retired under "multiple misconduct investigations"), actually played in a band with Drenth. The fact that Contreras comes from a long-time Phoenix police family certainly casts more doubt on the reputation of the department and, of course, any future or past fallen officers from that particular cesspool in South Mountain, mired as it is now in public scandal and accusations of racism. Hero cops indeed!

In this new era of austerity, and despite the overwhelmingly obvious corrupt and violent nature of our co-called "protectors", where we are reminded daily that teachers and other public employees (amongst the last remaining pathways to decent wages in this country) must face the imposed precarity of regular review of their qualifications and suffer the constant threat of dismissal, it's interesting that we have heard no such demands when it comes to the police. As a friend of mine recently remarked to a cop on the light rail, "They'd let children starve before they didn't pay you."

And make no mistake, when those children are starving, and you reach for that loaf of bread to tuck under your now-ill-fitting clothing, it will be one of these officers, not Drenth thankfully, but one of his corrupt, roid-raging and hair-trigger comrades, that intervenes to keep that food from their mouths. These are the saints of our time? Or is it perhaps something else?

I won't go into it in depth again, because I already did that in "Officer Down", but suffice it to say that, if as we've seen above, the cops aren't a bunch of angels protecting us from the thugs and thieves that would otherwise plague good people, then something else must be going on. At the least, as it would be a mark of insanity to defend the mainstream image of the police officer, it also makes no sense to be shocked that jobs that offer largely unaccountable power over others and unsupervised opportunities for theft and bullying in fact attract people interested in acting like a bunch of cowboy jerks that take advantage of people, push them around, plant drugs and steal (just to begin a very long list). In that sense, the image of the police officer is perfect cover for them.

But beyond that, of course, we have the particular role of the police as a system in the US. Born out of the slave patrols in the South, the anti-Mexican militias in the Southwest, and the anti-worker thugs that broke up strikes, the legacy of the police remains with us to this day, defending the wealth and power of the elite first, of the settler second and of everyone (or no one) else third, except perhaps by accident or convenience. Let's not parse words or dance around the issue: the thin blue line in fact defends capitalism and the state from it's victims, ensuring that people like us don't get out of line and that the rich and their bureaucratic buddies in the government stay safe, warm and well-fed in their mansions and downtown penthouses. The cops keep the money rolling in! They reinforce white supremacy, protecting some from the worst excesses of capitalist and bureaucratic power in exchange for their acquiescence in the hyper-domination of the rest of society.

The police, far from the angelic agents of our deliverance from evil, are in fact a hallmark and the bulwark of a deeply unequal class society, in which power is exercised against the will and against the interests of the vast majority of the population. Each time one falls should be a time for celebration, not mourning, for it brings us a little bit closer to a world without cops, a world without inequality.

In Spain during the revolution the workers and peasants, so infuriated at the apologists for the monarchy and feudalism, dug up the rotting corpses of the priests and nuns that had conjured the myths of their age -- the lies that sought to keep the farmer and the factory worker in his or her place, bowing always to the appropriate authority figure. Perhaps we can think of counterparts in our own society, who deserve similar tribute, should the time come. So, please, weep no more over the dead cop than the dead slave patroller, or the dead Pinkerton. No rose on the grave, but who's got a shovel?