City Asks Permission to Release Records

PHOENIX (CN) – The City of Phoenix and the Yavapai County Attorney asked a state court to determine when they can disclose police records on an altercation between a Phoenix city councilman and a police officer. The councilman, who is black, claims he was needlessly knocked down and handcuffed by the white police officer.

     The two lawsuits in Maricopa County Court both state that the U.S. Attorney’s Office has asked that the police report not be released until June 14, though The Associated Press, the Arizona Republic, and other media outlets have filed public records requests seeking “all investigative materials.”
     City Councilman Michael Johnson told the Arizona Republic that Phoenix Police Officer Brian Authement pushed him down and handcuffed him on March 19 when Johnson went to check on a fire at a neighbor’s house.
     Johnson, a 55-year-old black man and former a Phoenix police officer, claimed the incident “may have been racially motivated.”
     Authement, 27, is white.
     Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk says the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office asked her to review the police report and “determine whether criminal charges should be brought, and handle any subsequent criminal case.”
     (Phoenix is in Maricopa County; the Yavapai County seat is Prescott.)
     The Phoenix Police Department asked the FBI to “conduct an inquiry into the possible violation” of Johnson’s civil rights, Polk says.
     Phoenix claims that the FBI investigation may be “hampered or foreclosed because witnesses may be unwilling to provide accurate and/or additional information if the substance of their prior statements to city police personnel are made public.”
     The city has completed its investigations and has prepared two investigative reports, and has emails and other records on the incident.
     Polk says that if the she withholds the release of the investigation and records, media outlets requesting the documents “would be permitted to appeal the decision to the court and to request attorney fees and other costs from the Yavapai County Attorney.”
     Polk seeks a declaratory judgment on whether the police reports she has are public records and may be released. She also asked to have her complaint combined with the Phoenix lawsuit.
     Phoenix is represented by Michael W. Sillyman with Kutak Rock of Scottsdale.

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