Arizona Officers’ Inaction During Drowning Spurs Probe

(Phoenix) — A Phoenix suburb is reviewing how it handles water rescues as video of three police officers standing nearby as a homeless man drowns sparks outcry.

The Tempe Police Department says the officers are on paid administrative leave after last month’s drowning in a city lake.

An uproar arose after Tempe police on Friday released edited footage from officers’ body cameras as well as a transcript of the May 28 incident.

Video of Sean Bickings (34), climbing over Tempe Town Lake’s 4-foot fence. He is told by an officer that swimming is prohibited. Bickings enters the water and begins to swim. A second officer informs him to keep an eye on Bickings as he gets a boat.

This is the end of the video. But the transcript shows two officers repeatedly tell Bickings to swim to a pylon and “hold on.” Bickings continuously says “I can’t” and pleads for help.

At one point, one of the officers says: “I’m not jumping in after you.”

Continue reading: America’s Policing System Is Broken. It’s Time to Radically Rethink Public Safety

Officials said that the city had seen Bickings swim in the water for 40 yards (37m) all around.

Tempe Officers Association stated that the public should understand that officers aren’t trained to rescue watermen. They followed the training they received and then went on to purchase a boat.

The city released Monday’s news release stating that officials would reevaluate water rescue protocols. The city will review where life-saving equipment, such as life preservers, should be located relative to any lake or body of water.

Initial reports that there had been a brawl between Bickings, a male companion and Bickings at 5:05 a.m. were received by police. Both Bickings and a female companion denied that any physical altercation took place when they were questioned. However, officers did a background check on the two men and found that Bickings was in possession of three outstanding warrants.

Officials claim that this is the moment when Bickings crossed over the fence. His companion claimed that Bickings was her husband. However, officers stopped her from following him.

Firefighters recovered Bickings’ body and pronounced him dead.

Arizona Department of Public Safety is investigating and Scottsdale police are looking into the response.

Police Chief Jeff Glover met with Bickings’ mother last week. The city denied her request for video.

Tempe Town Lake measures more than two miles (3.22 kilometers). It was created in 1999 from a section of the Salt River. This is an excellent spot to jog, bike, kayak, and do other recreation activities.

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