Following the outrage when it was learned that police in Arizona refused to save a drowning Black man, it has since been revealed that officers from the same police department previously went above and beyond the call of duty to rescue a dog from a canal out of fear that the pet could die.
It was the latest fallout from the death of Sean Bickings, who was struggling to stay above water in the Tempe Town Lake when a nearby officer declared he would not try to save the 34-year-old man this past Saturday, according to the transcripts from the three cops who were there.
On Wednesday, AZ Central reported that the police union representing the Tempe cops said their officers didn’t have the proper training to safely save people drowning, a claim that belies law enforcement’s sworn duties to protect and serve the public.
But that claim didn’t seem entirely true since different cops from the same police department managed to not only respond to a dog in distress in a local canal weeks earlier but also successfully save the beloved pet from drowning, unlike what happened with Bickings.
“Officials with the Tempe Police Department say officers, with the help of civilians, were able to rescue a dog from drowning in a canal, the local news outlet Fox 10 reported on May 17.
The Tempe Police department even documented the moment with a celebratory tweet showing the responding officers smiling alongside the dog and the man who cops say helped them.
“Shout out to Tempe resident ‘Salty’ Thompson and our patrol officers for saving this pup from downing [sic] in the canal today!” the tweet says in part.
Nearly three weeks later, the Tempe Police Department apparently couldn’t be bothered to extend the same levels of urgency to Bickings that its officers showed a dog.
As a result, all three officers who responded have been placed on paid leave while Bickings’ drowning is investigated.
The incident unfolded when there was a reported instance of domestic violence between Bickings and his wife near the Tempe Center for the Arts, which is located near a bridge.
Even though Bickings and his wife both denied there was any domestic violence, the officers detained them while “running their names through a database used to check whether people have outstanding arrest warrants,” a Tempe city government press release said, calling that “a standard procedure.”
The press release went on to say that “Bickings decided to slowly climb over a 4-foot metal fence and enter the water.”
The press release says Bickings ignored police orders and “swam about 30-40 yards before repeatedly indicating he was in distress.” That’s when Bickings submerged and never reappeared, the press release says.
Notably, the press release never states that the police ever tried to physically prevent Bickings while he “decided to slowly climb” over the fence.
The police transcripts from the encounter tell a slightly different story.
According to Fox 10 Phoenix, one officer wrote in his notes that Bickings clearly said, “I’m drowning.”
But the only action taken initially was to simply advise Bickings to “Come back.”
When Bickings said he “can’t,” the first cop made no secret of his intentions: “OK, I’m not jumping in after you.”
The transcripts also show one of the officers threatened Bickings’ wife, who was reportedly in hysterics at the prospect of her husband dying.
“If you don’t calm down, I’m going to put you in my car,” a cop warned Bickings’ wife with exponentially less empathy than the Tempe Police Department showed for a dog.
“I’m just distraught because he’s drowning right in front of him and you won’t help,” Bickings’ wife said, according to the officers’ transcripts.
A protest at Tempe City Hall was planned for Thursday to demand the defunding of the police department.
This is America.
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