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.
|Source: USA TODAY|
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.
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.
READ MORE DOWN AND DROUGHT COVERAGE OF THE PHOENIX POLICE DEPARTMENT