Phoenix City Council members Michael Nowakowski and Betty Guardado issued a joint apology on Monday to their colleague Carlos Garcia and residents.
The Arizona Republic on Sunday reported that the two released a YouTube video in which they appear to make fun of Garcia’s critical comments on police shootings.
Garcia accepted their apology. In his own statement, he said he holds “no ill feelings towards Vice Mayor Guardado and Councilman Nowakowski for the video.”
Garcia, who in the past has worn a black t-shirt that says “End Police Brutality” during a City Council meeting, has been the most critical council member of Phoenix police shootings.
‘I love Phoenix PD’
The video, which was uploaded Dec. 20 on the city’s YouTube account, shows Nowakowski and Guardado at Desert Sky Mall in the city’s west neighborhood of Maryvale. In the 10-minute video, they talk about buying gifts for their colleagues.
“Well, you know he loves police, right?” Guardado says in the video, referring to Garcia.
“I got a crazy idea, let’s get him a shirt (that says) ‘I love Phoenix PD,'” Nowakowski responds. “And hey, hashtag, ‘Por Vida,'” which means, for life.
They walk to a vendor and tell him they need something for Garcia. The vendor pulls out a blue, custom-made shirt that says, “I Love Phoenix PD #PorVida.”
Both council members then hold up the shirt and say, “Hey Carlos, we love you. Merry Christmas.”
Three days after the video was uploaded, Phoenix police shot and killed Richard Ruiz outside Desert Sky Mall. According to police, Ruiz shot two people in the area, and then ran from police.
‘We would like to issue an apology to the communities we serve’
Guardado, who represents district five on the city’s west side, and Nowakowski, who represents district seven on the city’s southwest side, released a joint statement of apology.
“We would like to issue an apology to the communities we serve. Our attempt to be lighthearted regarding our friend and colleague was not well thought out,” according to the statement. “We meant no disrespect to those we are working with to improve accountability and transparency, nor to the men and women of the Phoenix Police Department. We will continue to work alongside Council member Garcia, our colleagues, and our residents to move Phoenix forward.”
Garcia, who represents district eight covering parts of downtown and south Phoenix, accepted the apology.
In a statement, he said he hopes to continue to work with his colleagues on a proposal to implement a civilian review board to review police use-of-force cases.
“The District 8 team continues to be committed to ensuring the Phoenix Police Department is accountable and transparent to the people of Phoenix,” Garcia said in his statement.
It went on to say, “I hold no ill feelings towards Vice Mayor Guardado and Councilman Nowakowski for the video. My hope is that we can continue to work together and accomplish a Civilian Review Board along with other reform measures that prioritize the safety of all Phoenix residents. The community’s response to this video shows the urgency to make sure we get something done.”
Councilman Sal DiCiccio responded to the YouTube video in a tweet on Sunday, defending Guardado and Nowakowski.
“The two councilmembers who did this did it as a joke, it is insane there is a story on something as stupid as this,” the tweet says. “Political correctness and the cancel culture is babyish.”
Poder in Action, a Maryvale-based advocacy group, responded to the Phoenix video in a Facebook post on Friday.
The group said that seeing Nowakowski and Guardado “make fun of” Garcia’s efforts to hold the Phoenix Police Department accountable is “discouraging and disappointing.”
“This isn’t his fight alone,” the group said in the statement. “You’ve heard the pain of mothers whose children have been killed, of kids who’ve been traumatized, and of women who have been sexually assaulted by Phoenix police. The pain of our community, and someone willing to speak on their behalf, is not a joke.”
Phoenix police shootings affect people of color the most
In 2018, Phoenix police were involved in 44 shootings, the most in the nation by a municipal police department.
A previously-published Republic analysis found that Phoenix police, who serve a city with 1.6 million residents, had an average of 17 shootings per every 1 million residents from 2011 to 2018 — more than New York, Los Angeles, Houston, San Antonio, Dallas and San Diego.
In that eight-year span, Phoenix police shot at 212 people, killing about half.
The Republic’s analysis found that Hispanic people were the most often shot and black and Native American people were disproportionately shot when compared with their population numbers in the city.
In 2019, the number of police shootings dropped by 66% to 15 — the fewest in a decade.
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