Phoenix chief says police response to incident with 4-year-old is 'unacceptable'

“What we saw in that video isn’t in keeping with good policing,” Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams told NBC affiliate KPNX.

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By Tim Stelloh

Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams apologized for her department’s handling of an alleged shoplifting incident involving a 4-year-old girl and her parents, saying Sunday the confrontation that was captured on video was “unacceptable.”

“What we saw in that video isn’t in keeping with good policing,” Williams said in an interview with NBC affiliate KPNX. “This is not what should have happened in that circumstance.”

The child’s parents, Dravon Ames and Iesha Harper, filed notice of a $10 million claim last week over the incident, which occurred May 29 after the couple said they realized their daughter had taken a doll from a dollar store.

Video showed officers appearing to push and kick a handcuffed man believed to be Ames and handcuffing Harper, who is pregnant, after an unidentified woman came to take care of the couple's two young daughters.

At one point, an officer screams at Ames and says: “"When I tell you to do something, you f------ do it!"

The officers then pick up Ames — who apologizes and appears to be complying — and throws him against a police vehicle.

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The couple and authorities offered different accounts of what happened before the confrontation. Ames and Harper said they were driving their girls to a babysitter when police approached them in an apartment complex parking lot.

Williams said Sunday that the couple fled from police after a Family Dollar manager alerted authorities to “adults” stealing from the store.

In a police report, officers said the girl took a boxed doll, while Ames took a pair of underwear and a woman who’d been with the couple at the dollar store also allegedly stole something.

Once the car was parked, the report says, Ames allegedly reached toward the car’s center console and yelled that he hadn’t done anything wrong.

Williams said Sunday that police “shouldn’t have reacted the way that we reacted.”

Williams said that the officers who appeared in the video were placed on desk duty. An internal investigation was looking at discrepancies between the police report that documented the incident and the cellphone video that showed the confrontation.

On Saturday, Ames told Al Sharpton on MSNBC that he was glad the incident was caught on video by a bystander so people could see how he and his family were treated.

"I felt like I did everything I could to show the officer that I was complying," he said, adding that the experience was traumatizing for him and his young children. "I looked the barrel in the eyes, my kids looked the barrel in the eyes. I thought they were gonna start shooting," he said.

Rev. Jarrett Maupin, of the Arizona chapter of the National Action Network, appeared with Ames on MSNBC, saying that "this is one of the most insane attacks on a black family, or any family, that I've ever seen law enforcement engage in."

Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego issued a statement on Twitter on Saturday, saying, "I, like many others, am sick over what I have seen in the video" and "I am deeply sorry for what this family went through."

The mayor vowed to speed up implementation of body cameras on police officers and hold a community meeting to address the incident. "I realize that to get to the bottom of this issue and implement meaningful change, we are going to have some uncomfortable and painful conversations," Gallego said.